ALTHOUGH his glittering hockey career didn't end the way he wanted, Kurt Ogilvie is thankful for everyone that made the ride enjoyable.
The 36-year-old Kiama resident called time on his competitive hockey career during the Sydney Premier League Hockey decider last month - as his Moorebank Liverpool District Hockey Club minor premiers side, featuring Shoalhaven trio Nick Jennings and Alex and Callum Mackay, lost 3-2 to the Norwest Strikers.
"Like most sporting teams, 2020 was very challenging with the COVID-related interruptions and modifications but I was proud of the way the team had put the distractions aside and performed at a high level all season," Ogilvie, whose side had gone 12 games unbeaten before the grand final, said.
"We claimed the minor premiership, so it was certainly a successful regular season.
"In the final, we began the game very strongly but the opposition had done their homework and planned well, making a few tactical changes at quarter-time and half-time and we didn't adapt.
"While we certainly weren't at our best, they produced a strong performance and deserved the win.
"Naturally, I was disappointed to lose, as were my teammates because we hadn't finished with the desired result but I couldn't be too upset after the efforts of the group all year and reflecting back on the opportunities I've received through hockey.
"I certainly got a bit emotional talking to our team later in the stands, as I thanked them for everything they had sacrificed and contributed to our time together."
As with the case of all athletes, Ogilvie, who's been at Moorebank since 2003, had been wrestling with the idea of retirement for some time.
"I made the decision to retire mid-season and was comfortable with it," he said.
"It had been in my mind the last couple of seasons but this was the first time I'd really felt at peace with stepping aside and moving on.
"Previously the decision had been hard and I believe if I had retired earlier, I may have regretted it in some aspects but for years, I had known what level of commitment and preparation I had expected of teammates at the premier league level and I could no longer commit to that standard.
"I needed to and wanted to spend more time and energy with my family, so ultimately I knew the decision was right for me."
This decision brought an end to more than 20 years in the sport, which all began with the University of Wollongong under 13s side.
He got his first taste of senior hockey with Kiama, before he returned to UOW - who he went on to win close to 10 Illawarra premierships with.
A short time later he started with Moorebank - where he won six Sydney first grade premierships (2010, 2013, 2014, 2016, 2018 and 2019).
"Now that I've called time, it's given me a chance to reflect on my career and reach out to plenty of the friends I've made through the sport over the years," Ogilvie, who played with the Huizer Hockey Club in the Netherlands in 2011, said.
"The achievements that mean the most are the premierships we have won with Moorebank, my selections in the NSW Waratahs Australian Hockey League team [now the Hockey One League] and the Australian Indoor World Cup teams in 2007, 2011 and 2015."
While all those accomplishments mean the world to the father of three, he knows what he'll miss most about the sport.
"The mateship is what I'll definitely miss most - I'm certain I wouldn't have played this long had I chosen to pursue an individual sport," Ogilvie, who's travelled to countries such as New Zealand, Malaysia, England, Scotland, Russia, Denmark, Austria, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and Canada for hockey, said.
"I love the challenge of high-level competition, knowing you will be tested each week and knowing that you need to prepare as best you can to perform well each Saturday.
"I'll miss the tactical side of the game and will probably get bitten by the coaching bug at some stage in the future.
"But as I said, I'll mostly miss being around the team and enjoying a beer or a laugh with close mates after a game."
Ogilvie acknowledged how hockey has shaped him into the man he is today.
"The step up from playing in the local competition to playing in the Sydney competition opened my eyes to the level of commitment, discipline and sacrifice needed to pursue anything at a high level," the defender said.
"That move fast-tracked my progress to the point where I was able to make a few representative teams and in turn, get to travel to plenty of places around the world to play the sport I love.
"I feel like a lot of the values of team sport and high-level sport also carry over into family life and professional life.
"That commitment, discipline and sacrifice are important in so many parts of life but also my ability to communicate and be understanding and empathic in a team environment help with how I am at home with my young family.
"I feel like sport, in general, can offer so many valuable lessons if you're open to them."
Other big influences on his life have been his parents, siblings, wife Ash and teammates.
"My parents allowed us kids every opportunity and have supported us from the very beginning - they still come and watch almost every match," he said.
"My wife has been a massive help - she probably doesn't think so but as a voice outside of the hockey world, she gave me perspective and allowed me to approach the sport from a more well-rounded place.
"I've had a lot of pretty special teammates and coaches along the way too, I'd like to think I've learned something from everyone I've played alongside - some who I consider as world-class talents.
"Tristan White is right up there as the most elite in all areas - he was selected for the 2016 Olympics but was cruelly robbed of participating due to injury, so that's the calibre of player he is.
"Simon Beaton was the guy who was a teammate for almost every season of my career, he was a phenomenal talent as well and understood the game better than almost anyone.
"My brothers Heath and Flynn are both elite in their own right too - Flynn is chasing selection in the Tokyo Olympics and hopefully has a big year ahead of him.
"There has been a heap of elite players and phenomenal guys that I've been lucky enough to play alongside - I'd miss people for sure if I tried to list or rank them."
While having the luxury of playing alongside numerous top-level talents, Ogilvie has also had to mark countless of the same during this career.
"Probably the hardest opponents to mark were when I was early in my career trying to prove myself as a first grader," he said.
"Every second week I'd be matched up against a striker who had played at an Olympics or would later play at one.
"Guys like Jamie Dwyer, Adam Commons, Mick McCann, Matt Smith and Eli Mathison were all running around the Sydney Premier League when I began.
"There were some freakish European players as well who we played against at the Indoor World Cups - the German teams, in particular, were basically a selection from their Olympic squads."
As such, the Woonona High School alumnus appreciates how much the sport has changed over the past two decades.
"The game itself has definitely sped up, especially at the higher levels," Ogilvie, who is proud of the team-first culture that's now developed at Moorebank, said.
"A number of the innovative skills players produce these days weren't being attempted 20 years ago.
"The sport itself is moving in a more professional direction with more opportunities for elite players to earn money playing in different parts of the world.
"Hopefully the sport continues in that direction and can claim a bigger share of the sporting landscape and a bigger profile in Australia and around the world."
While he will keep a keen eye on the hockey world, before potentially reentering it as a coach, Ogilvie appreciates where the next part of his life lays.
"My family will be my priority for sure," he said.
"I look forward to spending time with my wife and kids.
"My six-month son is still very young but my older son and daughter are getting close to the point where they probably want to be joining some young sporting teams themselves, so I'm excited to see them begin their own journeys.
"I also have my own small health and fitness business [Kurt Ogilvie Health] in Kiama and am excited to see how I can develop that with a little more time and energy available."
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