Dwyer has no regrets in choosing curved stick over straight bat
Jamie Dwyer is glad he didn't take up a cricket scholarship offered to him when he was 15. A talented batsman - perhaps with the potential to represent Queensland at state level - Dwyer turned down a bright future with the bat and ball to continue playing with the curved stick.
It was a life-changing decision he would never regret. Dwyer loved cricket but he loved field hockey even more. He always wanted to win an Olympic gold medal and cricket wasn't the sport to achieve his dream.
'I played two sports as a kid. Cricket in the summer and hockey in the winter,' said Dwyer, who, at 32, is one of Australia's greatest players. 'I had the option of furthering my cricket career by being offered a scholarship but my passion was hockey. I loved hockey more.'
The Australian national team co-captain is in town until Tuesday for a series of coaching clinics at the Hong Kong Football Club.
'The Olympic Games is the biggest stage in world sport and I wanted to be a part of it,' Dwyer said, whose trip here was sponsored by STI (Sports Technology International), Rabobank and Sports Depot. 'I have been lucky. I had to commit a lot. I had to move from Rockhampton, my home town, to Brisbane to eventually [the national team's home] Perth.
'My mum and dad were supportive because they were hockey players,' he continued. 'My other relatives were sort of wanting me to go to cricket because there is a lot more money. But I wouldn't have changed it for anything in the world.
'With hockey you have to commit a lot and make a lot of sacrifices and you have to train hard. I enjoy doing that because I love the game so much and I wouldn't be able to do that with cricket. I have absolutely no regrets turning down that cricket scholarship. I'm very happy with my choice.'
Dwyer is a five-time International Hockey Federation world player of the year and an Olympic gold medallist at Athens 2004, scoring the winning goal in a 2-1 triumph over the Netherlands in the final.
He has scored 169 international goals in 266 appearances and is one of the most sought-after names in the sport, conducting coaching clinics all over the world.
Australia and the Rockhampton Rocket, as Dwyer is known, have won the last four Champions Trophies as well as the World Cup in 2010. The Kookaburras are among the favourites to lift gold again in London this summer and Dwyer, already part of the 28-strong squad, is certain to again play a key role.
'The Australian men's hockey team has been successful over the years,' Dwyer said. 'Our main goal is to win gold at the Olympic Games. We will be favourites but at the end of the day that means nothing because you have to go out there and win a game or two of hockey. It's going to be a challenge. I'm looking forward to it,' he said.
Dwyer is used to challenges. Eleven months before the Athens Games, his Olympic dreams appeared over when he injured his left knee.
'Injuries in any sport are not nice,' he said. 'I suffered an anterior cruciate ligament rupture in my left knee, which kept me out of the game for a long time. People told me it would take at least a year to recover and that I wouldn't be as fast and fit.
'I proved them wrong by playing well and scoring the winning goal in the final against Holland. Later that year, I was named best player in the world for the first time.'
Australia's success in Athens silenced a lot of critics because the Kookaburras had never won Olympic gold in 48 years.
'It's not easy winning Olympic gold,' Dwyer said. 'Australia have always been strong and we have been in the world's top four ranked teams for the past 40 years. Before 2004, a lot of people said we underachieved by never winning an Olympic gold, which might have been true. My first one was 2004 and we had success. 'I still think I can get better. I have been the best player in the world for the past three years and I have won everything I ever wanted to win, but I still feel I could improve.
'The game keeps changing and you need to keep getting better. I don't think my age is a barrier. My body feels good. I'm one of the fittest guys on the team and one of the fastest. I'm not one of the biggest guys, so I don't have body problems that a big 33-year-old would have. The most important thing is to have team success and I have an important role on the team.'
Until he leaves town, Dwyer is lending his vast experience to the city's aspiring players.
'Hong Kong needs to set up a good junior programme,' he said. 'You need to get a good [league] competition, which I believe Hong Kong has, and get some funding in order to travel and play against teams such as Australia.
'Take a bit of what Australia does and Holland and Germany does and add it to your game and keep improving step by step and eventually the [playing] margin gets smaller and you'll be able to compete with the rest of the world. It can be done.'