Hearts' Kye Rowles speaks on learning from Tony Vidmar and Craig Moore, smashing into tackles, and avoiding Hibs' Lewis Miller

Kye Rowles doesn't really need any encouragement. Physicality is a prominent part of Scottish football and Hearts’ new Australian defender relishes the prospect of getting waded in about it.

Monday, 25th July 2022, 7:00 am

He delivered a composed and assured performance during Saturday’s 2-1 victory over Stoke City in Tynecastle legend Gary Locke’s testimonial match. Another new recruit, Lawrence Shankland, scored both goals to announce himself to the Gorgie support.

The real action starts this weekend when Ross County visit on the cinch Premiership’s opening day. Rowles is well aware of the challenges ahead and is preparing his body for battle.

“I might not have the frame for it but I like to get stuck in a fair bit. It's good fun getting stuck in, I don't mind at all,” said the former Central Coast Mariners player.

“I have tried to hit the gym a bit in the past few years but I don't seem to keep anything on. I'm all for getting a bit bigger so you can match up with the bigger guys. That's what you need at the back, to be able to strong and physical and win those duels.

“I'll just give it my all and try to smash them. I try to get my timing 100 per cent right. You can go in recklessly but that's not effective. If you get your timing right, it goes alright.”

He learned those traits watching some of Australia’s best. Craig Moore, Tony Vidmar and Lucas Neill all inspired the young Rowles, Vidmar in particular.

“I've taken bits and pieces from everyone's game,” said the 24-year-old. “I started working with Tony Vidmar at the Socceroos. He's had us since under-17s right through. I always get pointers from him and he has taught me a lot.”

New defender Kye Rowles is settling in at Hearts.

It has been suggested that Vidmar himself was partial to a tackle or two. “Yeah, he loved it. He was a top defender who loved getting stuck in as well,” smiled Rowles. “I watched all that Socceroos generation from 2006 when they qualified for that first World Cup in so many years.

“I watched all the defenders like Craig Moore, Vidmar and Lucas Neill. They had so much Aussie spirit so I try to channel as much of that as I can and follow in their footsteps.”

Rowles enjoyed 90 minutes on Saturday, as did Shankland by scoring in each half. His first was an instinctive close-range prod from Alan Forrest’s goal attempt, the second a well-executed rebound volley following superb build-up play by teenager Finlay Pollock.

Locke took the applause before and afterwards as reward for 20 years of service to Hearts. Rowles is just getting started but already seems to have digested the important stuff.

Hearts legend Gary Locke takes the acclaim before his testimonial match against Stoke City.

His former Mariners colleague Lewis Miller joined Hibs last month but Rowles won’t be meeting his new rival for coffee with the season’s first Edinburgh derby less than two weeks away.

“No chance. I might message him and see how he's going but I've not seen him,” admitted the Tynecastle man.

Hearts (3-4-2-1): Gordon; Halkett (Sibbick 75), Kingsley (Halliday 75), Rowles; Atkinson, Haring (Grant 60), M Smith (Pollock 80), Cochrane; Forrest (Boyce 60), McKay (Mackay-Steven 75); Shankland.

Stoke City (3-5-2): Bursik; Taylor, Jagielka, Wilmot; Clarke, Baker, Kilkenny (Smallbone 60), Laurent (Clucas 65), Tymon; Brown (Gayle 60), Campbell.

Referee: Nick Walsh.

Attendance: 7,789.

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