Odisha Men's Hockey World League Final Bhubaneswar 2017Match id:CeremonyFoto: COPYRIGHT WORLDSPORTPICS FRANK UIJLENBROEK
Odisha Men's Hockey World League Final Bhubaneswar 2017Match id:CeremonyFoto: COPYRIGHT WORLDSPORTPICS FRANK UIJLENBROEK Contributed

Dream come true for a Rocky boy

BARBARA Knowles and her husband Ryan are "pinching themselves” their son is once again the captain of the world's number-one hockey team.

The local parents were celebrating yesterday in light of their son Mark Knowles leading the Australian Kookaburras to victory, and were re-watching the game from the comfort of their home.

After Sunday night's tense 2-1 game against Argentina, the team managed to reclaim their title as the best of the best.

"It was a nail-biting game,” Barbara said Monday morning, still buzzing over the very close win.

The team may have stiff competition when it comes to the skill of the game, but Sunday night proved that the Australian players have more passion than any when it comes to the drive behind such wins.

"It was a very close game... Mark is very happy and I think today they are having a little celebration,” Barbara said.

"They had a slow start and had three draws and he said 'we need to win to get the confidence back'.

"They grew in the tournament and were getting use to each other as a team.

"We were so pleased with how they kept improving. It was going to be 'who wants it the most?' and they got there in the end.”

Barbara is singing the praises of the man behind the team, new coach Colin Batch, who brought together the experienced and the new in an impressive display which showed off the team's ability to adapt quickly.

"They mixed them all in and threw them in the pot,” Barbara said.

"That's what they needed, to see how they stand up against other teams around the world.

"Hockey's a tough game. The boys backed up from Saturday night to the Sunday night finals and have been playing every other day with only a day or two break in between.

"I just don't know how they do it.”

Knowles first picked up a hockey stick when he was four-years-old and loved it straight away.

"He couldn't get enough of it,” his mother said.

"He would push around a little hockey stick and made a paper ball out of a Morning Bulletin newspaper and he would push it around the house and try and beat his little sister.

"He always looked like he was going to have skills. But so much of it is your mindset and whether you are committed.

"That is what showed last night. It's all about the belief.”

A young Knowles never wavered from his ambition to represent Australia, and despite pressure to choose another field, became more than his parents could have anticipated.

"It's all he's ever really dreamt of,” Barbara said.

"They don't do it for the money, just for the passion.

"And he's still got that passion. He said 'this is what we just love doing in front of hockey fans, this is what we do it for'.”

Hockey runs in the Knowles' family blood; his parents were both players and Ryan coached his son until he was 15.

The pair travelled to South Africa to watch their son play, and offer encouragement to the Kookaburras.

"Take no prisoners,” Barbara tells the team in her pre-game pep talks.

"We pinch ourselves every day,” she said.

"They play at a tough pace and need to be amazingly fit and have that great skill level.

"You've got to make your own luck.

"We were pleasantly surprised. They won't take it as the end, Mark will remind them to keep improving.”

Rockhampton local and Kookaburra's team mate Jamie Dwyer will join Knowles on their home turf to teach aspiring young players on December 28.

"Mark does love being with and talking to the kids,” Barbara said.

"He says he understands what a role model is to them.”

As a child, Knowles looked up to his idols such as Jay Stacy and Matthew Willis (who he would come to play with), as well as many other international players.

According to his mother, Knowles has remained humble and has not forgotten the young boy who had dreams to be one of Australia's best hockey players.

"He understands the role a role model has in a kid's life,” Barbara said.

"He says it's important to give back and do the autographs.”

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