Jamie Dwyer is rated the greatest field hockey player in the history of the game. He scored the match-winning goal for Australia to claim its first ever Olympic gold medal in Athens in 2004. He’s a five-time winner of the International Hockey player of the year award.
You recently played in the first season of the Indian Hockey League. It’s a new concept. Does it have a future?
Yeah it’s great for the game. It was established along the same lines as the cricket IPL. There was a bidding process for players. A quota for foreign imports. Something new for hockey. We played 14 games in a month so with all the travel it was quite difficult but at the same time very enjoyable. It’s completely different to any other competition I’ve played in around the world, whether that be in Australia or in European leagues. It’s a great concept for the future of hockey.
It’s certainly taken domestic hockey to the next level hasn’t it?
Yeah we got to play in front of some huge crowds which doesn’t happen outside of a few international games. And off the field we got to mingle with the Indian players and the best from all the other hockey nations. And of course we got to see a fair bit of the country so I had an amazing experience. This format has changed the sport.
Was it necessary to grow the game at domestic level in order to develop hockey as a global brand?
Well India have set some goals on where they want their men’s team to be in the international game. They want to be ranked in the top four at the Olympic Games and they see this as a way of helping achieve that. They wanted to bring an attractive style of hockey into India and remind the general public that the game is still alive and it’s a pretty exciting sport to watch. They’ve got such a proud history the Indian hockey team but I guess in the last 10 years even they’d concede they’ve been asleep. This competition has definitely woken them up and there’s been a lot of interest not just from the Indian public but from all around the world. So it’s good for Indian hockey and it’s good for world hockey.
You’re a five-time world player of the year. You must have been one of the fan favourites?
There was a bit more attention than we’re used to. We’d be heading to games and I’d see my picture on a billboard or on the side of a bus and there would be fans waiting for us when we arrived. It was good. Hockey needs that sort of attention. Don’t forget it’s the second biggest sport in India though. I don’t think it was on the same level as if Adam Gilchrist was walking down the main street of Delhi but it was certainly something different to what hockey players are used to that’s for sure.
I bet it wasn’t bad for your bank balance either mate!
Well, again, it’s not at the level of the cricketers but that’s a good thing for the future of the sport. With the amount of money that’s coming into the sport it might help us retain players. People won’t gravitate towards other sports because of the money. If they love hockey they’ll stay with us. Hopefully kids watching on television will think ‘gee that’s a cool sport. I wouldn’t mind playing hockey’ and it will make them want to pick up a stick and have a go.
The cricket model, the IPL, has been accused of threatening the future of the international game. It probably works the other way with hockey?
Yeah it can help sustain the sport and the good thing is there’s a window in the international schedule that makes way for it. We haven’t had a pay increase in hockey for I reckon 20 years so this will only help retain players in the international game for longer.
I used to play cricket against you. You went alright for a short bloke. Did you find yourself wondering ‘what if’ while you were in India?
Yeah at times. Hockey is definitely my passion and what I was best at but sometimes I do look back and wonder how I would have gone if I’d stuck with cricket. Couldn’t do much worse than some of the guys in the Aussie team lately!
Drugs in sport is a hot issue at the moment. Hockey has a finger-pointed at it but are you confident it’s a clean sport?
Well I’m confident I am. I had a drug tester track me down at my cousin’s place in Melbourne at six in the morning recently so if they’re that thorough with everyone else I can’t see why not. I know with the Kookaburras I’m confident we’re all clean and that’s something we’re very proud of. I’d be pretty sure that’s the case in the sport around the world too. I don’t think we have the problems of other codes . Unfortunately it is in other sports which is a real shame. I love my sport and I’d like to think any sport I’m watching is clean.
Is it getting harder to travel the world now that you have two kids?
Sure is. It’s certainly not as enjoyable as it once was. I’ve got two young boys and being away from them is really difficult. It’s getting harder and sometimes I do think about calling it quits. But I’m going to keep going at least until the world cup and next year’s Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and I’ll re-assess after that.
What about the next Olympics?
I definitely can’t guarantee I’ll still be around for Rio. I’ll be 37 then. I still feel fit and I still feel as good as I did 10 years ago. My pace is still the same. Physically I’m in good shape. Mentally I’m still up for it. I still want to keep challenging myself and keep improving and see how good I can be as a hockey player. But it’s just getting harder and harder. Four years time might be too far for me. I’ll just keep going year by year though and see what happens. When you get to my age I don’t think you can plan too far ahead in elite sport.
London was disappointing though wasn’t it?
Yes and it still hurts. We were favourites going in. We always knew Germany were going to be a tough team and we were hoping we wouldn’t have to meet them in the semi-finals but we did. We played 25 minutes of really bad hockey and that cost us any chance of a gold medal. We got beaten by a better team on the day. But I looked at my stats for last year playing for Australia. I played 25 games and lost one of them. That was at the Olympics which makes it hurt even more.
Does that mean there’s unfinished business?
Yes and no. I’m lucky to have been at three Olympics already and have a gold and two bronze medals. I’d have loved to have won three gold. I’d have loved to have won every game I’ve played for Australia. But I look back on my Olympic career and I’ve given it everything I’ve got.
Would you like to stay involved with the national team?
Yeah I’d like to coach the Kookaburras one day. I don’t see that happening in the next five to 10 years but maybe after that. It’s been such a big part of my life I’d like to stay involved. I’ve started up my own hockey stick range, I’ve started up my own online coaching business and another one where I travel across Australia and around the world so that side of the game is definitely a passion of mine. We’ll see what the future holds. I’d like to but you never know what lies ahead.
You’ve played under Terry Walsh, Barry Dancer and Ric Charlesworth. Would your coaching style be similar to any one of them in particular?
I think I’d just take the best of all of them and then try and put my own touch on it. Each one of those coaches was good in their own way. They also had their weaknesses as well though. I think you’re always learning from your influences. I know I do as a player. I look at the best players I come up against and see what they do well and try and add components of that to my game and I think I’ll take that same approach when I move into coaching. I’ve done a little bit of it in Perth in the Premier League competition. We had a bit of success in 2011 and I really enjoyed it. Last year we didn’t do so well so I’ve got a bit to learn in that regard but I’ll finish off my playing career before I start thinking too seriously about that.
You’ve just invested in a restaurant with a few other Olympians so you mightn’t have to worry about coaching if that takes off.
Yeah who knows. It’s right on Leighton Beach just near Cottesloe. There’s five of us have invested in it, including Steve Hooker and Eamon Sullivan. It’s called Bib ‘N Tucker so hopefully it does well. Good food, good service and great beers.
You’re already talking like an entrepreneur mate! How did that investment group come about?
It started at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi. I got to know Eamon pretty well. Then he invested in a coffee shop in Perth and I said to him ‘if you’re ever looking into something else let me know, I’d be interested in helping you invest.’ Then he rang me up and said ‘alright we’re going to invest in a restaurant on the beach.’ So I said ‘righto, sounds good, I’m in.’ Then Steve Hooker got involved and a couple of other mates. We’ll see how it goes. Eamon is really passionate about that sort of stuff and he’s doing a good job.