WATCH: Knowles talks hockey, family, career and the future

How does it feel to be home for the Christmas break?

It's great. I think just to come back at the end of a long, tough year is very nice, just to be around the people who love you and to see the enjoyment in the kids' faces with grandparents - it's been really nice.



The Kookaburras didn't get the result they wanted at the Rio Olympics. Can you put your finger on what went wrong?

I've been trying to for four or five months now and no, not one specific thing. I think a number of factors always lead to a poor performance of a highly successful team. Obviously individual errors was a big one where players were just down on form but there's a few other things. We didn't cope with the travel very well, I think our preparation was slightly off there on knowing the South American conditions and the travel and how long it would take us to get over that, a couple of guys got really sick at the start of the tournament, we lost the match against Spain - match two - which was something that we didn't expect and I think really jolted a few of the younger guys especially, their confidence in maybe where we were at.

It was a range of things but I think as individuals we didn't play as well as we needed to and if you want to be really good you need to have a large number of top performers and we just didn't have that unfortunately.

We were still very much good enough. One thing that we did say and we made very clear to everyone was it's probably the first Olympics where any of the top seven teams in the world can win and people laughed at us when we said that and No.7 won the Olympic gold medal and beat No.6 in the final and that's never happened before. I think that shows the strength of the hockey world and it also shows how much you have to be on task and on top of your job every minute in every game.



It wasn't an ideal draw for you in Rio. Can you give us an idea of what your schedule was like?

Four of the five matches were at 8.30 at night, it was the first Olympics we'd ever had quarter-finals, it was the first Olympics we'd ever had back-to-back matches and we were starting our match at 8.30 at night, finishing at 11, getting home to the village about midnight, still having to have dinner, still having to do a recovery session, still trying to get to bed to wake up the next morning by 10 o'clock to have a video meeting, a debrief, a pre-match meeting, a warm-up, lunch, dinner for an 8.30 at night game the next day, so some of those were factors but certainly not excuses.



What was the talk after the Rio campaign when the playing group got back to Perth?

We haven't really regrouped properly, we've had a really disjointed period. We've had seven guys leave to play in Europe, we've had our coach depart, assistant coach go to the national women's job, high-performance director of Hockey Australia has moved on, so it has been disjointed, but I think the players fully understand that it was a massive missed opportunity. I think it will hit some now and it will hit some in a few years' time when we truly understand how big of an opportunity we missed there. But I think we have a new coach now, there's a lot of reasons to be looking forward. Some players have moved on, some have retired, but 2017 brings a new challenge. Players will all react differently but once we come together in March after the Hockey India League in the next couple of months we should be raring to go for the year.




What are you expecting from the Kookaburras' new coach Colin Batch?

Colin Batch was the assistant coach of the Kookaburras 2001 to 2008, a highly successful time there with the Olympic gold medal. I'm the only one left now with Jamie (Dwyer) moving on and hanging up the boots. I know Batchy really well and I think he will bring a tough mentality, he's very focused, highly driven in his own right from being a player for Australia but also in his coaching sense.

I think the two things I'm looking forward to most are he coached Belgium, who were Olympic silver medallists back in 2012, when they were really on the up, so we get a little bit of that European flavour that he'll bring, and also he's been New Zealand men's coach for the last four years so we get to find out a little bit about what such a close rival of ours plans to play against us and I'm very interested to see first-hand knowledge of what he would have spoken to New Zealand or Belgium about us.



Fellow Rockhampton player Matt Gohdes has not been named in the Kookaburras squad for 2017. Is there still an opportunity for him to work his way back in?

He's one of the guys who definitely has a chance to come back in. He's playing in Europe until June so that's one of the reasons I suppose, he didn't play in the Australian Hockey League in October due to the European season so a few of those things would go against him but he's young enough, he's good enough. The coach knows that, we know that, he knows that - it's just whether he wants it now. I really hope he does because the Commonwealth Games for him on the Gold Coast should be a big drawcard, like it is for me, so he's certainly capable of coming back in later in 2017.



You've been to four Olympics. How realistic is Tokyo 2020 for you?

At the moment, not that realistic, I would say. I think I could do and I take a lot out of Jamie (Dwyer) being 37 and playing at the Olympics. I take a lot out of what he was able to do, how we conducted himself and sorted his body and kept himself in touch and I think that I can do that. But you also get to a stage where the game moves on, there's younger people around, there's different ideas, there's more travel away from a young family, so four years at the moment for me, I'm not looking at four years. I'm not writing it off but I'm not saying I'll be there.

Definitely two years - the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast, the World Cup in '18 - they still excite me, they still interest me. I still think I'm highly motivated and highly driven to be successful myself and also as a part of the team. At the moment, I think I'll set myself shorter goals than four years. I think Gold Coast Commonwealth Games ... it's only 15 months away now and that's a very small amount of time in professional sport.



Can you tell us about your decision to move back to Brisbane from Perth?

I've been in Perth with (wife) Kel for 14 years. It's a long time to be in a state far away from your family and the comfort of your friends. We made the decision to move back at the end of last year. Flynn, our young fella, starts in Prep next year five days a week, we just wanted to be a little bit more settled, more travel for me with India and the Australian commitments and I didn't want to put Kel through that on her own again for another period of time.

I've been back for four weeks now and it just feels right. It feels exactly how I wanted it to. I think the kids are happy, Kel feels more comfortable with her parents being able to come down more often, mum and dad have been down already for the boys' birthdays just for the weekend.

I'm training with a new coach and a group of young Queensland boys who are very keen, they're enthusiastic. It's different and new for me and not too often when you've played international sport for 14 years do you get a spark like this. It feels new and interesting and that's really what I wanted so it's been good.

I head back now to train again for a couple of weeks before I head to India so it's very interesting, it's exciting and I just hope it's a real refresher for me for international hockey, for life, and that was the aim of it.



How are you feeling about your prospects with the Punjab Warriors in the Hockey India League?

We're reigning champions from last year, pretty much unchanged with Matty (Gohdes) still in the team, six Australians, (and) we picked up a Dutch international player, world player of the year in 2015, Robert van der Horst. It's a very good team and it will be interesting again with Barry Dancer as our coach. You go to India for six weeks, you get to enjoy the life of being professional for a small period of time. Their love of hockey, they've just won the Junior World Cup, so everything is ramping up more and more in India. It's exciting and it's interesting to see where they can get to.

How old are your children?


Flynn's five and Luca's two, they just had their birthdays at the end of November, and Frankie, my little girl, is six months. She's beautiful, it's nice to have a girl. We're very happy.



What is your schedule like when you return from India?

Back to Brisbane training and then we've got a pretty full schedule. We go to Darwin for a Four Nations at the end of March, at the end of April the Azlan Shah Cup in Malaysia and then we have a training block for about six weeks before I go back to Perth for a week before the World Cup qualifier in South Africa in July, which is our biggest tournament for the year.



Can you talk a bit about what is very much a new-look Kookaburras squad for 2017.

There's 11 changes from this year in the squad of 30 so it's a big turnover. The squad's dropped down to 23 so there's less players. I think that's what Batchy's done in New Zealand, he's worked with a smaller pool of players and maybe with him coming in new he wanted to focus really closely on the group he feels he can work with and then there's also a few spots there free for people hopefully like Matty who stand up at the early part or the middle of 2017 to come back in before the Comm Games.

There's the Junior World Cup guys who just finished fourth in India earlier this month who have the potential to come in, and then there's a good group of core players who hopefully we can work with and continue to grow.



What would your message be to the new players in the squad?

I just think take every opportunity. I've spoken to all of them personally myself as the captain but as a leader and a guy who's been through it and I just said, "Grab it with both hands, you don't want to let these opportunities slip and you want to get in there. You've got an opportunity now as one of the best 23 players in Australia." Most of those guys are feeling good, they're very excited, most of them are fairly nervous and quite hesitant about how it will all go but we won't know until June or July if it's worked. You need three or four or five months in Perth training with the national coach and some of those senior players to really fit in and I think that's what those guys are looking forward to.



Are you feeling any extra pressure or added responsibility being the elder statesman in the squad?

Not really, I've done that for the large part of my career, it's the type of person I am. I like leading from the front. Leadership is something I've tried to keep working on and try to keep improving because, like anything, if you stand still and become stagnant people will stop listening so you have to continually change your messages, you have to continually try and influence different groups and different people in the squads and I think that's just what I'm trying to do.

I get to do it in a different way now, not being in front of the guys every day in Perth. Being back in Brisbane I get to try and do it when I come in as a fresh voice and a fresh face into that Perth training group or when I meet up with the guys on tour. It's going to be a challenge for me, it's going to be certainly something that I'll need to keep working on but I'm looking forward to that part of it, not being front and centre every day, just having a bit of spark for myself as much as the younger guys.



Can you give us a run-down of your international career so far?

294 games, 25 goals, four Olympics (Olympic gold, two Olympic bronze and sixth in Rio this year), two World Cup gold medals and a silver, three Commonwealth Games gold medals, five Champions Trophy gold medals, world under-23 junior player of the year in 2007 and world senior player of the year in 2014, and Commonwealth Games closing ceremony flag bearer in 2014, they're probably the individual awards that stand out above the others.



Can you single out the greatest achievement of your career?

There's two - the Olympic Games gold in 2004 is what you dream of, as a kid what I wanted to do, but growing up in Rocky playing on the grass fields here you would never think you could do it. So that, the first and only gold medal for men's hockey, that's by far as good as anything could get. But I was young, I'd only been in the team for six months, I probably didn't understand the true enormity of that.

The World Cup in 2014, what we did as a team in that tournament was just unbelievable. A drop-in hockey field in a soccer stadium in front of the Dutch home crowd, 17,000, and to win a World Cup final the way we did, the hockey we played, how we conducted ourselves, what other teams thought of us, what other teams saw in us and what other people in the crowd and the hockey world saw in that tournament will maybe or probably never be done again so they're the two standouts for me.

Topics:  hockey kookaburras mark knowles sportfeature

Stay Connected

Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.

UPDATE: Jockey remains in ICU at Coffs Harbour

INJURED: Jockey Kirk Matheson was injured in a fall during racing at Clarence Valley Jockey Club.

Injured jockey Kirk Matheson rushed into surgery.

PHOTOS: Meet our kindy students

Newrybar Public School

My First Year commemorates the start of school for kinders

Johnny Cash tribute will take you back to Folsom Prison

COUNTRY: Singer Daniel Thompson as Johnny Cash.

Johnny Cash The Concert Revisits Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison

Local Partners