LOYAL REWARD: Long-serving Ipswich hockey player, umpire, coach and official Pauline Alchin has celebrated a memorable milestone.
LOYAL REWARD: Long-serving Ipswich hockey player, umpire, coach and official Pauline Alchin has celebrated a memorable milestone.

After 800 games in Ipswich, Pauline is still a winner

HOCKEY: After being recognised for playing 800 games, Pauline Alchin scored a goal in her milestone match.

For such a loyal Thistles player, Alchin fittingly enjoyed a special moment sharing in her team's 3-0 A2 Grade win over Collegians.

But after more than 40 years playing, umpiring and working as a club and Ipswich association official, Alchin was happy to still be out on the field.

"I just love the game,'' she said.

"I enjoy playing with the girls that are in the team. We've played together for 10 or so years.''

The easygoing player and willing worker has the record for most matches at Thistles, which is Ipswich's longest running women's hockey club started 80 years ago.

The fullback has proudly worn the purple colours in the Ipswich competition for decades, only having one early season with Norths before returning to Thistles.

But it was through school that Alchin first discovered the enjoyment of hockey.

Attending St Mary's as a nine year old, she was invited to play with friends at East Ipswich State School.

As St Mary's didn't have a primary school team at the time, the East Ipswich school provided an ideal opportunity.

"I had to get permission from the principals and stuff like that to play with them,'' she recalled.

"That's when I started playing.''

Alchin grew up in East Ipswich so she could later walk to the former Ipswich Hockey Association grass fields for club matches in the same suburb.

She started with the East Wanderers club, where the players also wore purple - the same traditional colour of Thistles.

Alchin's older sister Bernadette also played at East Ipswich State School, forging one of Ipswich's most dependable family connections.

Bernadette is also still heavily involved in hockey, being one of the city's leading umpires and umpire mentors.

She played for many years like Pauline.

Pauline's children Erin (Norths) and Lucas (Wests) play A Grade and Bernadette's son Aaron is also a regular Wests player and talented umpire.

Pauline's nieces Kerri and Lauren Vellacott play A2 or R2 for Thistles.

Bernadette's daughter Caitlin also plays in R2 and works as a tech official.

"There's a lot of families that are playing - the mothers and daughters,'' Pauline said.

"It's a bit of a family tradition that they keep playing, or they play together.

"It's a nice group of people in the club. Even the new ones that come in are very friendly and all get on well together.''

At the peak of her playing career, Alchin shared in some premiership success.

One of her most memorable games was a grand final in 1986 when Thistles came from 2-0 down late in the match to equalise and force extra-time against Wests.

Thistles finished stronger to win 4-2 after their tremendous comeback.

From 1983-88, Thistles were premiers in the Ipswich A-Grade women's competition when hockey was played at the former East Ipswich grass fields.

While playing so many games in different grades has been rewarding, Alchin has also accepted multiple off-field positions.

She has been Thistles Ladies Hockey Club president for 35 years.

This year, she accepted the vice-president's role with the Ipswich Hockey Association.

Over the years, Alchin has coached club and representative teams and umpired, earning a State A badge (as it was formerly known). She officiated at the national under-18 titles.

Working at Ipswich Breastscreen for Queensland Health, she particularly enjoys seeing young players get a buzz out of the game like she does.

She displayed wonderful emotion last year when the Thistles D Grade girls' team broke a premiership drought by winning their grand final at the Raceview fields.

"They were a great little team,'' she said, also thrilled her daughter Erin was the coach.

"It was good to get a premiership under their belt and to win (beating minor premiers Wests in shootouts).''

With such a lasting family connection, Pauline hopes to enjoy more fond moments.

"The old bones are getting a little bit weary now so I'll just keep playing as long as my body tells me I can,'' she said.