What’s it like to train with Jamie Dwyer and Mark Knowles

The past few days I have been in Perth training with the Kookuburra men who did not go to the Champions Trophy. You can imagine my excitement getting to hit around with the likes of Jamie Dwyer, Mark Knowles, Kieran Govers, Matt Ghodes, Fergus Kavanagh, Kyle Brown and Jake Wheton… the list continues.

This excitement very quickly turned to “oh no!” this will be embarrassing; I won’t even see the ball! Alas, leading into the Olympics it will be my last chance to make some gains before selection time is upon us, and what better way to do this with the best of the best.

I turned up to the first individual session, trying to act calm and collected and not at all intimidated by some of my idols. Within the first few minutes I felt so welcomed, like one of the ‘boys’. Not only super talented are those Kookaburras, but genuinely really nice people. I started having a hit with Kieran Govers, a good friend of mine. He taught me some tips about doing a tomahawk in the space of a minute! It is crazy that a skill you practice hundreds of times can be improved in that amount of time with a different perspective.

I had a few things that I needed to work on during the week, and Mark Knowles straight up said ‘whatever you need to do let’s do it”. The captain of the Kookaburras preparing for the Olympic games being there for me? How cool right?! Anyway. needless to say the first ball he passed perfectly in front of me at right half went flying over the sideline at a pace I was definitely not used to. He promptly apologized for his perfect pass realizing that I probably couldn’t get there. But after that I settled into the session, and was getting tips and advice on how to better my receiving from the best in the world. The speed at which they play, and how they go about their sessions taught me a lot about what they expect from themselves and each other to get the best outcomes.

I later joined in on the group session. Going through the warm up felt like a fitness session as I sprinted while they cruised back and forth. We began with a mini game, and my first ball I did a full field pass through the designated goals… the boys started cheering and looking perplexed. Yes, they are far superior physically, but I was not about to let an opportunity pass. Needless to say I didn’t have to many passes after that but it did make me have to make decisions much quicker and move the ball on faster, because otherwise my options would shut down quicker than what I was used to.

They held themselves accountable when there was a miss, and encouraged each other for doing things well. I was really grateful for the opportunity to train with these guys, and hope that I can use the lessons learnt when I train with the Hockeyroo girls who are no less determined to reach the top.

By Anna Flanagan