The world is watching. And so they should be.

The Kookaburras are back in business.

2017 could not have finished on a more perfect note.

As a team, we really started to learn how to play as a group, how hard the world competition is and how to handle pressure when the heat is really applied against us.


Re-claiming the #1 world ranking with the world league final victory over Argentina is reason enough to believe that.

That championship performance provided the group with some much-needed confidence and belief in the direction we’re heading. We played quite a lot of hockey last year, a near 30 games, and to hit our straps at the most opportunistic time was pleasing.

The best part though? I look around the locker room and none of the boys seem satisfied with our performances, with each of them all quick to point out areas which we can improve upon.

It’s just the way I like it.

India always seems to get the best out of us.

I absolutely love playing over there – India has some of the best fans in the world, they really love their hockey. Many don’t know that the sport is actually the country’s “national game”, which even I find hard to believe knowing how popular cricket is over there!

They have really built an amazing domestic program with the Hockey India League and thoroughly deserve to host the 2018 Hockey World Cup in Bhubaneswar.

But back to our Kookaburras.

I think everyone now understands our best hockey can truly match any team in the world.

Our ambition has always been to be a top four nation – and we’ve firmly sustained that goal for some time now.

Reaching the top of the mountain is only part of the accomplishment, remaining there, is the greatest challenge. I’m confident this group understands that. There have been moments within games where they have demonstrated their desire to impart their dominance and resilience on oppositions.

That was on full display against Germany in the semi-final of the World League, when the boys really rose to the occasion, making impactful plays after giving away a couple of leads early.

They showed they were capable of taking it right to one of the best teams in the world and leave the arena as championship winners.

That was one of the biggest take-outs from the coaching staff – that each player really solidified themselves as “big stage” players, for me as the captain of the team, it was pleasing to see as I am the guy who leads by example through my play, voice and awareness when on the pitch.

I really set out to change my leadership throughout our 2017 campaign as well – because I felt I needed to add a more harden edge in the way in which I carried myself around the team.

I wanted to try and impact the group in other ways, which is why I was a little bit more demonstrative and more boisterous when I felt they required a stern voice.

Australia’s Daniel Beale (C) celebrates a goal with teammate Mark Knowles (R) during the men’s field hockey Britain vs Australia match of the Rio 2016 Olympics Games at the Olympic Hockey Centre in Rio de Janeiro on August, 10 2016. / AFP / Carl DE SOUZA (Photo credit should read CARL DE SOUZA/AFP/Getty Images)

Which is completely different to my usual leadership style – I have always been someone who looks to stay calm and in control, both in my play and how I act around the group.

I felt though if we were to truly challenge for the #1 world ranking, I would need to be the person to set the tone in the locker room.

Thankfully, I felt like my new style really resonated with the team – and may be something I will need to consider maintaining ahead of the 2018 World Cup and Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast.

It’s amazing that we have this awesome touchpoint to know we will be competing in such a major event on home soil.

To play in your own country, in a sporting hub like the Gold Coast, just gives everyone of us that added motivation to be there competing this April.

That campaign will really be the start of our journey to the World Cup, so it would be great to celebrate another championship moment together if we are able to put ourselves in a position to compete for that elusive gold medal.

I think having won the World League title in India, everyone is equally hungry to repeat our recent success.

Despite our ambition to embed a team culture of high performance and zero satisfaction, I have always been of the view there is no harm in daring to dream of winning a gold medal at the Commonwealth Games – it’s healthy to have high aspirations, and important to respect the accomplishment.

The beauty about where I am at in my career is I am able to help mould those aspirations for the younger generation coming through the system.

As long as we maintain an appetite of never being satisfied, I know we will be well placed for the coming tournaments.

Because as I told the group, as cliche as it sounds, we need to improve and get better, as if we play the way we did last year, we won’t enjoy any success in 2018.

Every other nation will be looking to get better due to the higher standards we have now set for everyone else to follow.

As the #1 team in the world, we have to feel that we have a target on our back – we have to constantly be looking for those little chinks in the armour and explore how we can get better each day.

But it is nice feeling being back on top.

Mark Knowles

Mark Knowles is the current captain of the Australian men's hockey team.

Mark is a member of the Australian Kookaburras gold medal winning team the 2004 Summer Olympics, and also won bronze in 2008, 12.