New Zealand's “Mr Water Polo” Steve Knights is not one to take a backseat, so when the 2017 World Masters Games hits Auckland he fully intends to make the most of the experience as participant, coach and referee.
Hailing from one of the country's most influential water polo families, Steve has been immersed in the physically demanding high-speed sport since the age of four.
An experienced international in a variety of roles the 51-year-old views the World Masters Games staged in his home city as a great opportunity to showcase the sport.
“I'm so excited to be competing (at WMG2017) at AUT Millennium at the brand new swimming pool,” he explains. “Yet this is more than about bricks and mortar. It is about introducing that other magic ingredient called people and getting the local community and the wider national and international community involved.”
A former senior New Zealand international, Steve enjoyed a long and successful competitive career which included stints playing in Australia and the USA.
He later coached several New Zealand national age-group teams and also guided Westlake Girls' High School to the national secondary schools title earlier this year. Yet arguably his greatest success has come in an officiating capacity.
Introduced to refereeing through his father, Geoff, the pair became the first father-son combination to officiate at a World Championships together in 1994 in Rome.
Steve has since gone on to referee at a further six World Championships, but his water polo career highlight came when he was selected to officiate at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
“It was a goal of mine to get to the Olympics and I managed to get there,” says Steve who lives on Auckland's North Shore. “It was massive.”
His success has emerged despite the backdrop of personal tragedy. In 1997 his father suddenly died of heart attack when climbing out of the pool after a training session in Glenfield on Auckland’s North Shore. He was aged just 55.
In a tragic sequence of events just eight weeks later his 33-year-old brother, Jeremy, suffered the same fate after collapsing at almost exactly the same spot. Two months later his grandmother died.
“It was a massive shock to not only lose three family members in four months, but my best friends,” explains Steve, who works as a gym sales manager at AUT Millennium.
He takes some solace in his subsequent water polo accomplishments.
“My dad spent a lot of time talking to me and mentoring me, so for him to know I would have officiated at an Olympic Games would have made him immensely proud,” he adds.
The World Masters Games present another exciting opportunity to spread the water polo gospel to the Kiwi community and beyond and Steve plans on being totally committed.
“You won’t find me shying away from anything,” adds the father-of-two “I'll be coaching helping with the refereeing and trying to get a team of old mates together to play in the 50+ age group.”