Hi, my name is Paul MacKinnon.
While ago I was asked to write something for Self-Pass and I’ve sat on it. I’ve read stories of some amazing people and their achievements and thought “my achievements don’t come anywhere near them, what can I write about that would be interesting?”
To give you an idea of my hockey background, I grew up in Canberra, Australia and my family was like a lot of others a hockey family. Dad played since he was a kid, Mum started when she met Dad and I have an older brother and sister who were already playing by the time I was born. So it was natural to pick up a stick and join the party.
Given the amount of time I spent around hockey and that Canberra is a pretty small city, I was above average through the juniors in a small hockey pond. Most of all I loved playing, training and trying to improve.
Since I can remember, my father was an Australian selector in some form. As kids we were exposed from a young age to high-level hockey and extremely lucky to be taken to watch National Championships, International matches, Champions Trophy’s, Olympics and World Cups. One such occasion was the 1994 World Cup in Sydney. It was here that I first saw Teun de Nooijer and Stefan Veen play and my interest in playing overseas caught alight. For years I’d wanted to grow up and play for my country and now I had another goal.
As a kid I wouldn’t be what you’d call an athletic kid so I was never really seen as a junior national player. I never made a junior world cup squad, was never in any development squads and the level of players that were playing at the time in the early 2000s made it difficult so the only real opportunity I had was an Aus. Development/AIS Tour of Europe, and it’s fair to say I really wasn’t mature enough to make the most the chance. From that team that toured 6 were picked for the Athens Gold medal team (Knowles, Eglington, Brooks, Shubert, Mowlam, Hammond) so there were some pretty good players going around.
As a 21 year old, after that tour I was extremely lucky have the opportunity to go over and play in the Hoofdklasse for Bloemendaal. This was rare for Bloemendaal and I was one of the first to play there as a foreigner. As a kid looking up to de Nooijer, the opportunity to play in the same team was amazing. Also in the team was Karel Klaver who I still keep in contact with and I was lucky/unlucky enough to be living with Jaap Stockman. At the time, Jaap was skinny tall kid playing for Hurley. The only thing that’s changed is he plays for Bloemendaal now.
I went back to Australia with a real focus to try and play for Australia and over the next 8-9 years I put everything into trying to get another opportunity. Unfortunately this never eventuated. In the end I just wasn’t good enough. I am disappointed in not achieving this goal, there are no doubt some things that I would do differently, but in the end I’m satisfied that I put in all I could.
What happened though was that as a result of the work I’d put in it allowed me other opportunities. I was lucky enough to play for Egara in Spain and along with Michael McCann, one of the first Aussies to play in the inaugural EHL. I’m very proud that over the past 10 years I’ve been a part of the Australian Indoor team, competing in the last 2 Indoor World Cups and up until August this year I had been back playing in Holland in the Hoofdklasse for HC Tilburg and Schaerweijde.
Recently I’ve been considering retirement from high level hockey, and what this means to the average player and it’s allowed me to reflect of what I’ve found so important and rewarding over time. Without doubt it’s the places I’ve been able to go to with hockey as the conduit and most importantly it’s the friends I have made all around the world. These people with shared passions and values that would never have been accessible without playing the sport I love. I now consider some of my closest friends are from Holland, New Zealand, Spain, South Africa, Scotland, Germany and of course Australia. This I have come to value more than any achieved or unachieved goal.
In a time and world where there is a lot of confusion and fear, the hockey community is one that I feel safe and happy that I’m apart of.