Hockey Australia today confirms four-time Olympian and long-serving Kookaburras captain Mark Knowles has announced he will retire from international hockey after the 2018 Commonwealth Games.
The 33-year-old defender made the announcement on Friday afternoon in Brisbane, ahead of the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast where the Kookaburras will chase a sixth straight gold medal.
Knowles has enjoyed a decorated career to date, winning a gold medal at the 2004 Athens Olympics along with bronze medals at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and 2012 London Olympics.
He is also a two-time World Cup winner (2010 and 2014), four-time Champions Trophy winner (2005, 2008, 2009 and 2012), former FIH World Player of the Year (2014) and former FIH Young Player of the Year (2007).
Knowles has also won three Commonwealth Games gold medals (2006, 2010 and 2014) and will aim for a fourth on the Gold Coast pending selection in the final 18-member team.
The Rockhampton-raised Kookaburra said the time was right to call time on his international hockey career.
“I’ve been thinking about this for a little while, where I was going after the Rio Olympics campaign and I didn’t want to finish on that note,” Knowles said. “I felt really positive about staying involved with Colin Batch, Rob Hammond and Anthony Potter as the new coaches.
“Since then moving away from the programme in Perth to Brisbane has been really nice for me to work on some things on my own, but also to begin the transition and life after hockey, which is important to me.
“I’ve prided myself on my application, my ability to inspire and play well in big moments. You’ve got to be really driven to play in the number one team in the world and be the leader I want to be. It takes a lot of effort and commitment.
“Going through how I was feeling and what my goals are, a bit of my motivation didn’t feel quite the same as it has and how I need it to be. I’ve thought it over and spoken with my most trusted people and my family and I feel at a really nice stage in my career where I don’t feel I’m in decline or that I’ve stagnated as a player. I really feel at a point where I’m satisfied and I’m looking for something else.
“The reason for announcing it now is I’m always an open upfront person who didn’t want to be holding back from teammates who I’m working with, playing with and being around every day until the Commonwealth Games.
“I feel like I’ll leave the game with the team in a great spot and I know the guys have the ability to drive forward in the coming years.”
Reflecting on his career, Knowles added: “I’ve been able to get absolutely every bit of talent out of what I have. I’m someone who has pride in myself in my ability to work hard, do extra and adapt to the new style and the way the game has grown in the past 15 years.
“I’ve been incredibly lucky to be supported by many wonderful coaches and athletes over my playing career and I can’t thank them enough.
“If my parents or any of my friends had said to me 20 years ago in Rockhampton that you’d play over 300 games for your country, four Olympics, Commonwealth Games, World Cups, travel the world, play in Europe, play in India, I would’ve taken it at the drop of a hat.
“You add success to it, being in the number one team in the world for 10 of those 15 years, it’s an amazing time to reflect.”
Knowles debuted for Australia in January 2004 and is one of only six Kookaburras to reach 300 caps. He is currently on 312 caps having scored 29 goals, bringing numerous highlights along the journey.
“The highlight for me is the Olympic gold as a 20-year-old in 2004. That was a dream come true,” Knowles said.
“I wanted to play for Australia, then I wanted to go to an Olympics, then I wanted to win an Olympic gold in that order and it all came in the first six months of my career. That was an absolute thrill.
“My first home tournament, the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne in 2006, that was pretty amazing.
“No doubt, my most proud moment for me as a player was the 2014 World Cup. The way our team conducted ourselves, the way we played, the way I was able to play as a leader in that group and as an individual was something not many teams have been able to do.
“They’re a couple of the absolute standouts among many many more.”
The future is bright for Knowles who has a young family with wife Kelly and their children Flynn, Luca and Frankie. Knowles also works at the Queensland Academy of Sport as a Personal Development Advisor and runs a hockey coaching business along with Kookaburras legend Jamie Dwyer.
“Where I am now in my career with my balance in my life has made this decision easier for me,” he said. “I have a fantastic job at the Queensland Academy of Sport which allows me to work with up-and-coming elite athletes in high performances programmes every day of the week.
“I’ve got my own coaching business with Jamie Dwyer and myself. I’ve got a beautiful family with a wonderful wife who has supported me for so long now with all of our trips away.
“She’s ridden the journey. I’ve got kids who have watched me at the Olympics, the World Cup and hopefully the Commonwealth Games.
“I’m in a really good place, I’m really looking forward to what life is after high performance hockey. Hopefully it remains in high performance sport. There’s always nerves when you go into new things but it’s also really exciting.”
Current Kookaburras head coach Colin Batch first worked with Knowles when he was an assistant coach in the Australia set-up in 2004. Batch praised Knowles for his contribution.
“I feel very privileged to have coached him at the start and at the end of his career,” Batch said.
“Mark has been a great player for Australia, he’s given us great service and he’s been one of the outstanding players in world hockey over that period.
“We’ve seen his leadership grow from a lead-by-example style to now as a very inspirational leader with not only what he does, but what he says.
“Mark felt the timing was right for him to retire upon the conclusion of our Commonwealth Games campaign. We support that.
“I’m very pleased that he stayed on after the Rio Olympics which has been good for me as coach to have his support as captain.
“We thank his family, his mum and dad who support him in a lot of places and, of course, his wife Kelly and children Flynn, Luca and Frankie. We wish them all the best for the future.”
Hockey Australia president Melanie Woosnam praised and thanked Knowles for his 15-year contribution to Australian hockey.
“Mark’s retirement announcement is a huge loss for hockey in Australia,” Woosnam said.
“He has had an outstanding and distinguished career in the sport over an extended period of time and we congratulate him on all of his achievements.
“Mark has been a fantastic leader and role model for our sport during his time in the Australian team. He is not only well respected by his team mates but also his coaches and opponents across the world.
“We are sad to lose someone of Mark’s calibre, not only as a player but as one of the much loved ‘sons’ of Australian hockey.
“We thank Mark for the wonderful contribution he has made to our sport and wish him all the best in the next chapter of his life with his wife Kelly and their beautiful young family.
“We hope we can maintain him in some capacity within our sport so he can continue to impart his knowledge and expertise on future generations of hockey athletes.”
MARK KNOWLES – Fact file:
*312 caps, *29 goals – Debut January 10 2004 v Korea, Azlan Shah Cup
*subject to change
1 Olympic Gold Medal (2004)
2 Olympic Bronze Medals (2008, 2012)
2 World Cup Gold Medals (2010, 2014)
4 Champions Trophy Gold Medals (2005, 2008, 2009, 2012)
*3 Commonwealth Games Gold Medals (2006, 2010, 2014)
2 Hockey World League Final Gold Medals (2014-15, 2016-17)
1 FIH World Player of the Year (2014)
1 FIH Young Player of the Year (2007)
*subject to change
Source: Hockey Australia Media Release