By STEVE SPINKS
AUSTRALIAN hockey star Jamie Dwyer stands in the middle of Goonellabah's Hepburn Park with dozens of aspiring young players hanging on his every word.
It's easy to get kids to listen to you when you've been voted as the best player in the world.
If only every children's coach could boast such credentials!
Dwyer and fellow Aussie representatives Nikki Hudson, Angie Skirving and Daniel McPherson were in Lismore yesterday as part of a clinic organised by Australian Hockey.
All boast Olympic gold medals, but it's been Dwyer who has dominated the headlines in Australian hockey circles for the past 18 months.
The Rockhampton-raised striker was selected in the Australian Olympic side after overcoming a knee reconstruction.
Then he was part of the Kookaburra side that won Australia's first Olympic gold medal in Athens after years of last-minute failure.
Not only that, but he hit the winning extra-time golden goal.
Soon after he spent a season playing professional hockey in Holland with Blooemendal, which was capped off by being named the best player in the world.
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The sheer emotional rollercoater that Dwyer has experienced cannot be captured in a few sentences.
"It's a little bit weird," he admitted.
It's been well documented, but it hasn't always been so easy for Dwyer.
He's had six operations and returned home to Rockhampton 18 times to live with his parents during times of financial and physical difficulty.
But since his meteoric rise he hasn't had to rely on his parents so much.
A stint in the professional Dutch league has helped.
"It's totally different," he said.
"You get about 2000 people to a normal club game and about 8000-9000 for a final.
"It's the best league in the world and is as professional as the rugby league or AFL over here."
Dwyer and the Kookaburras are gearing up for a busy eight months.
They have a four nations tournament in Germany in August.
Following is the Champions Trophy in India and a world cup qualifier in New Zealand.
The 2006 Commonwealth Games is not long after.
"I've played 65 games this year," Dwyer said.
"But I'm not complaining ... it beats working."