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How Kieran Govers went from the hockey turf to a coal mine and back | Hockey

It is difficult to keep Kieran Govers away from the hockey pitch. Known for his incisive runs past defenders into the striking circle of opposition teams, the 35-year-old hung up his boots in 2018 after playing for Australia for a decorated nine years, at a time when the team from Down Under was the benchmark in international hockey.

Kieran Givers is a two-time world champion, two-time winner of the Champions Trophy, a Commonwealth Games winner as well as an Olympic bronze medallist PREMIUM
Kieran Givers is a two-time world champion, two-time winner of the Champions Trophy, a Commonwealth Games winner as well as an Olympic bronze medallist

A two-time world champion, two-time winner of the Champions Trophy, a Commonwealth Games gold as well as an Olympic bronze in his trophy cabinet, the former Australia striker achieved whatever there was to during his nine years in the yellow jersey.

Yet that wasn’t enough to run his family that includes his wife Nicki and his two sons Leo and Toby. To run his household, Govers replaced the hockey stick in his hand with a spade, taking a unique decision to work in a coal mine.

“I am a coal miner back home. I work 18km underground. I am a supervisor in the mine and the job basically involves getting the coal out of the ground which then goes on to big ships and is used to make metal. I work long hours, it is really dirty, dark. It is foreign to me. I retired from hockey and went straight underground,” said Govers.

Having spent his entire life on the turf, it has been a difficult change for Govers. But the Australian got a chance to get out of the mines in Wollongong, his hometown, when the Malaysian Hockey Confederation (MHC) contacted him seven months back to join the men’s national team as an assistant coach. It was a no-brainer for Govers, who immediately accepted the decision.

“Recently I have been taking coaching a bit more seriously. So that’s why I will be doing a few more trips to Malaysia this year, prepare them for the Asian Games and then the Olympic qualifiers (in January 2024). My love is still hockey so I am coaching to be around the sport. I have a family too so I need to have a good balanced life,” said Govers, who played 124 internationals for Australia.

Coaching is not something that is new to Govers, who is also the president of the Illawarra South Coast Hockey Association and also plays for a local club whenever he gets a chance. Govers held a camp with the Indian hockey strikers back in 2019 to prepare them for the Tokyo Olympics which was later postponed by a year.

“I came in and did a camp with (then India analytical coach and fellow Australia player) Chris Ciriello just before Graham Reid arrived. The camp was for 10 days. It was really good to be part of the preparation for the Olympics. Hopefully, something I taught helped them get a bronze medal in Tokyo,” said the two-time World Cup winner.

But playing and coaching are completely different. While he could make a difference to the scoreboard while on the pitch earlier, he just has to hope whatever he teaches the young Malaysian team in manifested during matches.

“You have to think differently but then again I am still involved with what the world hockey structure is about these days. I can talk as a player and as a coach because I have been there, I have played the structure. I know all the good and bad that comes out of it. I just need to remember that I can’t affect what happens in the game. I can’t get out there and play. I teach them tactics and hope that the team sticks to them,” said Govers.

Govers also has a very special relationship with India. It was here that he played his first major tournament – the 2010 World Cup in New Delhi, winning it too. He participated in the now defunct Hockey India League (HIL) too and toured India multiple times during the course of his career.

“I have probably spent three years of my life playing hockey in India. It is very special for me, the fans are special, they love hockey. To count the number of times I have visited India I would have to look back at the passports,” laughed the former striker.

“The 2010 World Cup in New Delhi was pretty special. It was my first major tournament. We (Australians) like to travel here. Indian hockey has done a world of good for world hockey.”

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