Kye Rowles opens up on Hearts life, institute of sport background and why he couldn't shake Martin Boyle's hand after Hibs match

If there is a repeat of the melee that punctuated the end of the last Hearts-Hibs clash at Tynecastle, it’s unlikely that Kye Rowles will be the man who kicks it off, verbally or physically.
Kye Rowles will be in the centre of Hearts' defence for the visit of Hibs this weekend.Kye Rowles will be in the centre of Hearts' defence for the visit of Hibs this weekend.
Kye Rowles will be in the centre of Hearts' defence for the visit of Hibs this weekend.

“I’m not really fussed about all that to be honest with you,” says the 25-year-old Australian Hearts defender as the Gorgie side prepare to welcome their capital neighbours across the city for the first Edinburgh Derby of the season on Saturday. “I just think that football players, unless there’s a really, really bad tackle, something really slack, or unsportsmanlike, then it’s all just words. When players try to fight, I just think: ‘Mate what are you doing? We’re football players not boxers!’ It’s all just fake to me so I just try to not get involved in anything silly. I see no point in it.

"Some of the sledging is quite funny, though. If you give a bit and take a bit, it’s fun and games. The Aussies get a bad rap for sledging though because of our cricketers who are pretty good at it but it’s just sport.”

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But no-one should mistake Rowles’ reticence to become embroiled in a needless ruck for meekness. Nor should they assume that the importance of a derby win is lost on him. This is the guy who got his first taste of the fixture just two games into his first season at the club and having conceded a last-minute equaliser, the fact that it was his Australian international team-mate Martin Boyle who netted it did nothing to quash his annoyance.

Rowles takes the acclaim of the Hearts fans following last Saturday's 1-0 win away at Ross County.Rowles takes the acclaim of the Hearts fans following last Saturday's 1-0 win away at Ross County.
Rowles takes the acclaim of the Hearts fans following last Saturday's 1-0 win away at Ross County.

“I didn't even shake his hand after the match to be honest,” says Rowles. “I was pretty angry when that one went in. It’s football and we know those kinds of things can happen but I didn't like it. We have a good bit of banter [on Socceroos duty] and it is good fun. I just hope he doesn't do it again on Saturday. Certain games have different effects. I always try to bounce back as quickly as possible but sometimes you can’t help it. If we concede a bad goal and it’s avoidable but it turns out to be a winner or a last-minute equaliser, that’s when you kick yourself. But if you dwell on it too long, it can leak into the next game and now I don’t really let that happen. But derbies sting a bit longer than others because you always want to get one up on your neighbours.”

This weekend’s meeting will be Rowles’ sixth experience of a fixture that had him hooked from the outset. In the previous encounters there have been two Hearts wins – 3-0 home and away – only one defeat, at Easter Road, plus two draws. That first one was a body blow but the most recent, in their final game of last season, was more satisfying as it came despite Hearts being down to ten men for over an hour after Alex Cochrane was red carded and ensured the Tynecastle side finished above Hibs in the league table.

“If you can’t get up for those ones then there is something wrong,” says the player who says the biggest difference between football in his homeland and in Scotland is the unrelenting pressure to win every game. “That’s not to say that the games I played in at home weren’t important because I did play in some big games there as well, like cup finals and things like that, but there's no real consequences for doing bad. You don't want to be bad and no one takes their foot off the gas but over here, if you are going bad, you get punished for it.”

There is no relegation from the A-League, though. “Until that happens I don't think it will have that same feeling,” he admits. “It’s also different in regard to just how important it is and what it means to people over here. Not just the players and the people who work at the clubs, but the fans, the people watching it, the intensity, everything, that is a higher level.”