'Nothing like Thursday, that's for sure': Kye Rowles' rapid ascendency as Hearts' key defender

Like the club he now plays for, Kye Rowles appreciates how quickly things can change.

Kye Rowles will be at the centre of the Hearts' defence against Zurich.
Kye Rowles will be at the centre of the Hearts' defence against Zurich.

Just as Hearts have responded to adversity, battling back from uncertainty off and on the pitch in recent years, hoisting themselves back among Scotland and then Europe’s elite, while finding solid footing financially, the Australian international has come a long way in a short time.

Literally and metaphorically.

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A year ago he was at Central Coast Mariners, preparing for a new season, facing up to locals teams were crowds were sparse, and competition incomparable to the challenges he is now facing against the likes of Celtic and Hibs on Premiership duty, while going head to head with FC Zurich for a place in the Europa League group stage.

“You would maybe get a couple of thousand, not even fans but more like the people from around there who might know people who are playing in the games against you,” recalled Rowles. “Nothing like Thursday night, that’s for sure.

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“Yeah, it has been pretty full on but it can be good when things happen that fast because you don't have time to think about it, you just get on with the job you set out to do. That's kind of what I have been doing, just keeping my head down and working hard. I know that I need to keep getting better and give the best I can in every game.”

A relative newcomer to the international team, the 24-year-old was part of the Socceroos side that booked their ticket to World Cup football later this year. He then moved to Scotland and readied himself for UEFA club competition.

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And, while those experiences has prompted swelling self-belief, he is still learning every day, with European football a major education.

“I guess when you go into camp in June with the national team you look at those players and you are like ‘wow, they’re playing at great clubs and they have had great careers so far’. You want to do the same thing so you have to take yourself to the next level. There are no ifs. You just have to do it and coming in here there are such great players in our team and I don’t want to let them down.

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“I just want to keep getting better for them. Do I have the confidence I can be at this level? Definitely. There is great chemistry in this team. It’s like a family. I’ve only been here a month but there’s a feeling within the group that everyone wants to get better together and help each other out. It’s a great feeling.”

Unsettled by the enforced absence of defensive colleague Craig Halkett in the first leg, he said the team pulled together and learned a lot in the process.

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“It was a step-up, of course. They have some quality players. It was a different atmosphere, a different feeling with the travel and then going out there, it was pretty intense. It was a different feeling but one that I’ll hopefully get used to.

“We took a lot of positives from the result, especially when they kind of went ‘bang, bang’ pretty early in the game. Weathering the storm gave the boys a lot of positives and a lot of confidence that we can kick on.”