Knowles knows Aussies need to perform when it counts
7 December 2017
HOCKEY: Australia captain Mark Knowles says the FIH Men’s Hockey World League Final is all about learning to win in big games as the Kookaburras move into the final four of the tournament in India.
The Kookaburras qualified for the semi-finals with a 4-1 win over Spain on Wednesday night, with Blake Govers scoring a double, while Aaron Kleinschmidt and Jeremy Hayward also hit the scoresheet.
Australia failed to medal at last year’s Rio Olympics, getting eliminated in the last eight by the Netherlands, who they may face in the semi-finals, depending on their quarter-final result against Germany on Thursday night.
Knowles, who was Australia’s captain in Rio and has more than 300 caps, said beating Spain in a knockout match was a pleasing step for the new group, having previously drawn all three pool games.
“We’re a bit up and down but it’s really important that teams come here and play well in big games,” Knowles said.
“We go back to Rio 12 months ago, we failed to do that.
“Completely new group, completely different coaching staff, you want to win big games.
“We’re in the top four now, that’s a start. Then you get another chance at a big game.”
Knowles identified “small moments” as being key to winning the big games, citing Argentina’s run to Olympic gold last year.
“It’s very important. In the biggest games, small moments count for so much,” the 33-year-old said.
“We haven’t quite been on top of that this tournament so far, so it was nice for Hayward and Govers to score.
“Those small moments, you look at Argentina in the Olympics, those are what win tight games.”
Knowles, who debuted in 2004, praised the side’s youngsters such as newcomers Lachlan Sharp and Jake Harvie and said belief was growing within the group.
“The biggest positive for those guys is learning how to play in the structure and how fast international hockey is,” he said.
“I’m experienced and it’s still very fast. We’re getting them into the game, how Australia plays.
“This team needed a bit of belief and to see that we could do it. The coaches believed in us and I think the guys are starting to believe in the game plan, how we’re playing and how we’re acting as young men and hockey professionals.”
The Kookaburras will learn their semi-final opponent and fixture date following Thursday night’s quarter-finals.