Aged 50, Stu finally enjoys satisfying national reward
AS one of Ipswich's most dependable hockey goalkeepers for three decades, Stu Darby always enjoyed receiving state or Queensland Country honours.
However, he had to wait until he was 50 to earn his first national call-up through another level of the sport.
Darby was recently chosen in the Australian masters team to contest the over-50's competition at next year's World Cup in South Africa.
The long-serving Easts keeper will be joined in Capetown by Hancocks Reserve Grade player Chris Fenton, who was picked for the Australian over-55's side.
Wests regular Damian Goodwin was named shadow for the national 45's team with Hancocks stalwart Wayne Follett picked as a shadow for the 50's side.
After representing Australia for the first time at last year's World Cup, Arthur Rowe was named shadow for the latest national 75's side.
Hancocks representative Richard Arthur was named as an umpire to go to the World Cup in South Africa.
For Darby, making his first Australian team was hugely satisfying.
"It's a huge honour. It took a while for it to sink in,'' he said.
"Now I'm starting to think about it and starting to plan ahead now.''
Darby was part of the Queensland team that finished fifth at the recent national championships staged in Bunbury and Bussleton in Western Australia.
After some early one-goal losses to NSW and Western Australia, the Queensland over 50's had draws against Victoria, Western Australia Country and South Australia before a final 1-0 win over Western Australia Country.
Having made Queensland teams since 1993, Darby was playing in his third Australian Masters championship.
Fenton was up to 10 national masters campaigns.
While proud of his national titles record, Fenton offered another attraction of masters hockey.
"I've played in England, that was enjoyable. I've played in Sydney which was good but the highlight for me I reckon is really just playing with mates,'' Fenton said.
"You play with all your mates and your mates naturally go into it and then they con you into doing it as well . . . and as you go away you meet more and more guys and it becomes a really good close bond.''
Darby agreed, having become more serious about masters competition the past three years.
"Apart from being very competitive, it's quite social as well so that's a good part about it,'' the Ipswich stalwart said.
"You're playing with a lot of really skilful guys, smart blokes making good decisions under pressure.''
With the 2020 Masters World Cup in September next year, Darby had added motivation to keep playing for the Easts Reserve Grade side which lost the 2019 grand final to Wests.
"I might put a bit more effort in again,'' he said. "I'll stay active and keep training.
"It (the World Cup) is huge. I had a look at the teams that went to Barcelona a couple of years ago and I think there was 15 different nations there so it will be fantastic.''