Barb Knowles on hockey's biggest coup in a decade
HOCKEY: Barb Knowles says it will take a long time to wipe the smile off her face after Rockhampton was chosen to host the Oceania Cup and the Intercontinental Hockey5s next year.
The Rockhampton Hockey Association president has dreamed of bringing international hockey back to the city after it successfully hosted a two-Test series between Australia and South Korea in 2006.
More than a decade on and that dream has been realised.
The Oceania Cup is a biennial international men's and women's competition which in 2019 will act as a qualifier for the 2020 Olympic Games.
It will feature the Australian and New Zealand teams, which are all ranked in the top 10 in world hockey, and possibly Papua New Guinea.
Intercontinental Hockey5s is a modified form of the game and will likely involve six island nations, with the possibility of some smaller Asian countries also being invited to take part.
Knowles was "over the moon” when she received word on Tuesday from the Oceania Hockey Federation president that Rockhampton's bid was successful.
"It's just so exciting and probably more so today just being able to talk to people about it,” she said yesterday.
"This is the best tournament you could ever get in a regional centre and from an administration point of view it's an incredible achievement.
"On a personal level, it's a major highlight and I'm still trying to come to terms with the enormity of it.
"I don't think you will take the smile off my face for a long time ... well, until the hard work starts anyway.”
That hard work will start almost immediately, with the first step being the installation of a second artificial surface at the city's hockey headquarters, Kalka Shades.
The tender should be awarded within three weeks, with a view to the project being completed by the end of the year.
Knowles said a working committee would be formed to look at the logistics of delivering the week-long tournament in the first week of September 2019.
It would focus on the installation of temporary grandstands, change rooms and toilets, car parking, catering and ticketing.
Knowles said while she was not prepared to pre-empt spectator numbers, she was expecting an influx of national and international visitors.
"I think there will be spectators coming from other countries, New Zealanders will certainly come and Australian supporters will come from far and wide.
"Realistically, we've got plenty of area capacity to accommodate any number that we require.”
She said the tournament would deliver international hockey at its best.
"I really want people to realise that the Oceania Cup is a qualifier for the Tokyo Olympics. I know there are other tournaments where teams can qualify as well but this is a guarantee for them.
"There wouldn't be too many people who would not want to come and watch competition of that calibre.
"The Intercontinental 5s is going to be a fast and furious competition that will be really exciting and fun to watch.
"For what we've always wanted for Rockhampton hockey and this region to be able to say we can produce the best in the world and we are an amazing centre for hockey, it really is the pinnacle.
"We want to keep the hype going throughout the year to make sure Rocky benefits as much as it possibly can from this event.”