Knowles receives Kookas' top gong for fourth time
HOCKEY: Legendary skipper Mark Knowles has been named the Kookaburras Player of the Year for 2017.
The Rockhampton product received the award in front of about 400 guests at a gala event on the Gold Coast on Sunday following the 2018 Australian Hockey League finals.
Knowles, who retired after Australia's Commonwealth Games gold medal victory in April, led the Kookaburras to Oceania Cup and World League Final titles last year which resulted in the side reclaiming its number one world ranking.
The 34-year-old said it was an honour to receive the top gong for the fourth time in his celebrated career.
"It did come as a surprise because it was so even in 2017, coming back from the heartbreak in Rio and for me moving back to Brisbane,” he said.
"I broke my foot and missed the Azlan Shah Cup in April but came back and played the rest.
"Most people now know that my love of the game was reinvigorated a bit by moving back to Queensland, and I certainly played with a real love and a freedom that I missed in 2016.”
Knowles won the award in 2012, 2013 and 2014 and said 2014 was his best year by far.
"We won the World Cup and the Commonwealth Games and I was named World Player of the Year,” he said.
"But this one means a lot because I was in a different stage. I wasn't with the national program in Perth.
"I had to show the guys I was willing to play by the structures and be part of the group even though I was living in Brisbane so it was a nice feeling that the coaches and players voted for me to be the Player of the Year.”
Knowles said his injured ankle, which ruled him out of this week's Steve Waugh Foundation charity ride in the Victoria Alps, was coming along slowly.
He suffered the injury in an indoor soccer game, and is expecting to have surgery to "clean it up a bit”.
"I've been out of the (moon) boot for a week now and I'm walking slowly, trying to get some general movement back into it,” he said.
"I was very disappointed that I couldn't do the ride.
"Steve Waugh said there's always next year and I said I will hold you to that because it's something I really want to do.”
Knowles' next challenge will be the Mooloolaba Triathlon in March.
"I've been very busy. I'm just chipping away at a number of things, which keeps it interesting,” he said.