Knowles ‘Sparked’ By Queensland Return
27 September 2017
HOCKEY: Kookaburras captain Mark Knowles has loved his return to Queensland this year and is optimistic about his home state’s chances at the upcoming Australian Hockey League (AHL) which starts in Perth on Thursday.
Brisbane-based Knowles will lead the Queensland Blades in the tournament which runs from Thursday 28 September to Sunday 8 October.
The decorated 33-year-old defender moved to Brisbane with his young family this year, having long been based in Perth with the Kookaburras.
He helped Easts win the local league title recently with a Player of the Match display in the 4-2 final triumph over Labrador.
Knowles now turns his attention to the AHL, playing almost entirely throughout Queensland’s dominant period with eight titles in the past 15 years.
This year’s edition will be different for Rockhampton-born Knowles, given his time spent away from the Kookaburras set-up but he said the change has given him an “extra spark”.
“I’ve loved it,” Knowles said. “It’s a different feel for me.
“Moving back to Brisbane has given me a bit of extra spark.
“I’m the type of person who likes to lead from the front. That’s been my style with the Kookaburras.
“Not being in Perth has felt different for me, but I made a strong decision not to retire and give it away.
“I’ve put the same type of effort into gym recovery and training as I possibly can.
“I’m experienced enough to know the standard isn’t the same in Perth, so I need to challenge myself in different ways.
“It’s a breath of fresh air where you’re not being pushed by players and coached every day and you’ve got to do it for yourself.
“It’s been a great change for my family, being closer to both (wife) Kelly’s and my parents and we’ve loved it.”
Knowles missed last year’s AHL as Queensland failed to reach the semi-finals but the group has won three of the past five titles and loom as a major contender.
“This group is still strong,” Knowles said. “You’ve Matt Swann, Daniel Beale, Dylan Wotherspoon, myself, we’re the national representatives plus we’ve got players from the Junior World Cup as well.
“The competition is getting tighter and tighter. Queensland has been through a golden era but the AHL is full of challenges.”
Almost half of Queensland’s 18-player AHL team are members of Knowles’ title-winning Easts side too, creating strong familiarity fresh from their success.
“It was my first club Grand Final since 2000 back in Rockhampton with Souths,” Knowles said.
“It was pretty awesome. Seven of those Easts guys are in the AHL team so that’s great.
“It was a great way to finish my first season back in Brisbane. To have that different club environment it was nice.”
Knowles added that he loved the opportunity to play AHL.
“When I was coming through the ranks in the early 2000s playing for your state was very important," he said.
"When we get the chance we want to make it mean something. No doubt you’d hear it from a lot of the players. I love playing for my state."