Showcase of veterans? skills
By PAUL CHAMBERS
THE biggest women's hockey event in Australia is being hosted in Coffs Harbour from today until Sunday.
The NSW Womens Veterans Hockey Championships will get underway at 8am today and continue for three days, culminating in the presentation ceremony on Sunday afternoon at 2.35.
There is also an official opening ceremony which will be hosted by Mayor Keith Rhodes at noon today and a Championship Dinner at the Coffs Ex-Services club tonight which is already a 612 person sell out.
At this dinner there will be many special awards with the official presentation of gold jumpers for players over 50 years of age, green jumpers for 60 and over and one special maroon jumper for the only player aged 70 and over.
The tournament itself will include 113 teams from all over the state, travelling from as far afield as Tumut, Wagga, Bathurst, Tamworth and Orange.
This is the second time that Coffs has hosted this event, having previously organised it in 2001, and it has grown in popularity since then with 12 more teams.
Organiser, Debbie Baldwin, has been flat out planning the event for the last 18 months and working solidly for the last two days putting everything into place at the venues.
Trying to cater for the needs of the 2500 players, the 70 match officials, more than 100 helpers and the estimated 1000 spectators per day, as well as erecting and positioning the 30 marquees at the venues, has been a huge job.
The event is to be spread over three venues at Coffs Hockey Complex, the Leagues Club facilities and the International Stadium, with a total of 15 fields in use over the three days.
Baldwin is looking forward not only to the event but also the carry on effects it will have on the local community.
"I would like to stress the big impact this will have on the local community dollar wise," she said.
"Having all the players staying in the area for the weekend using all our local amenities will be a big boost again for our tourism, and at the event itself it is free to get in so tell everyone to come down and watch and get involved."
The other knock on effect Baldwin hopes such a big event will have is purely of a sporting benefit, and more specifically for hockey.
"The area really needs a second turf facility and we are able to show by hosting such an event that we would be able to raise the revenue to cover the costs of such a field, we just hope we can attract a sponsor or someone willing to provide a loan for us." Baldwin said.
One player who has seen it all before at these statewide events is Beryl Bracken from the Orara Valley Club.
Bracken, who has played for Orara for the past 10 years and in women's vets hockey for 17 years, won this competition six years ago in her division at Grafton.
She loves the event, and the sport of hockey, because of the fun she has playing and the friendships she makes.
"The friendships you build up between all the associations, the friendships you make over the years and the camaraderie you have make playing the game so worthwhile," Bracken said.
"The main teams in all the divisions play to win but as you get older we play much more for fun and just go out their to enjoy ourselves, well I do anyway."