Barb Knowles and husband Ryan celebrate with son Mark after he ended his international career with a gold medal at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games last year.
Barb Knowles and husband Ryan celebrate with son Mark after he ended his international career with a gold medal at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games last year. CONTRIBUTED

Rocky hockey stalwart honoured for decades of service

HOCKEY: Barb Knowles has ticked a lot of boxes since her hockey journey started at age 12 in the cool climes of Tasmania.

A gifted player (she represented both her home state as well as Queensland), she has also been a devoted coach, dedicated umpire, hard-working official and steadfast supporter.

She can now make another entry on that impressive list after being named Rockhampton's Sports Official of the Year in the 2019 Australia Day awards.

Barb has been involved with the Rockhampton Hockey Association for 42 years, 13 of them as president.

Rockhampton's Sports Official of the Year Barb Knowles (second from left) is congratulated by Rockhampton MP Barry O'Rourke, Capricornia MP Michelle Landry and major Margaret Strelow.
Rockhampton's Sports Official of the Year Barb Knowles (second from left) is congratulated by Rockhampton MP Barry O'Rourke, Capricornia MP Michelle Landry and major Margaret Strelow. RRC

She was instrumental in securing funding for the first synthetic turf hockey field built at Kalka Shades in 1996, as well as for its resurfacing in 2006 and for a second international standard field, which is under construction.

She was the driving force behind the first international hockey series to be played in Rockhampton in 2006, and the architect behind the successful submission that will bring the 2019 Oceania Cup to the city in September.

READ: Homegrown hero Mark Knowles excited for Oceania Cup in Rocky

READ: Oceania Cup a coup for Rocky: Hockey Australia boss

Barb has worked tirelessly to develop and grow hockey and said the Australia Day honour, while not something she sought, was a welcome acknowledgement of her efforts.

"It did come as a surprise, to be honest,” she said.

Hockey Australia president Melanie Woosnam (left) and Rockhampton Hockey Association president Barb Knowles discuss plans for the Oceania Cup, which will be held in Rockhampton next year.
Hockey Australia president Melanie Woosnam (left) and Rockhampton Hockey Association president Barb Knowles discuss plans for the 2019 Oceania Cup. Allan Reinikka ROK091118ahockey1

"It's an honour and certainly something special.

"Volunteers never look for this recognition but that's probably why they have awards like this. I do it for the love of it but the award was certainly a thrill.

"It's good for hockey, especially with Kaleb Christensen also named the Sportsperson of the Year.”

Barb is no stranger to elite hockey, having travelled the globe following the fortunes of her son Mark who had a decorated 15-year international career in which he played 324 games for Australia.

She is thrilled that the Central Queensland community will get to see hockey at its best when the city hosts the Oceania Cup from September 4-8.

The tournament, the biggest hockey event ever held in Queensland, will feature Australia and New Zealand's men's and women's teams and is a qualifier for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Barb had always harboured a dream of bringing international hockey back to Rockhampton after the success of the Australian-South Korean series in 2006.

Barbara Knowles, Bob Claxton and David Peebles at Rockhampton's hockey grounds
TOP GONG: Barb Knowles is flanked by Oceania Hockey Federation representatives Bob Claxton and David Peebles during a recent visit. Jann Houley

"Securing the Oceania Cup is such a coup for Rockhampton but the 2006 series was right up there because it was the first time international hockey had been played here,” she said.

"At that stage, Mark and Jamie (Dwyer) were in the team so that was especially gratifying.”

Barb said September's Test matches would be telecast by Fox Sports, and broadcast live into New Zealand, Asia, South Africa and parts of Europe.

"I am over the moon about that, and the promotional opportunities are huge,” she said.

"It will put Rockhampton and the wider region well and truly on the map as a major player on the world stage. We need people to come and support this event and I can guarantee they will be amazed when they see these games live.”

Barb is "proud and pleased” with the progress Rockhampton Hockey has made during her tenure as president.

"It would be easy to sit back and do as we always did but I would like my legacy to be that I was always looking to steer things forward to help the game of hockey progress and our association to grow,” she said.