SUPERB SERVICE: Ipswich Touch Association’s latest life members Donna Leisemann, Sharon Smolenski, Rick Borg and Ian Rodgers. Above: Rick Borg was surprised but proud to have his name added to the honour board.
SUPERB SERVICE: Ipswich Touch Association’s latest life members Donna Leisemann, Sharon Smolenski, Rick Borg and Ian Rodgers. Above: Rick Borg was surprised but proud to have his name added to the honour board. Contributed

Ipswich Inductees rewarded for service

THE Ipswich Touch Association has recognised some of its most dedicated people by inducting four new life members.

Donna Leisemann, Sharon Smolenski, Ian Rodgers and Rick Borg became the first inductees since 1995 when Sue Hart (nee Langlands) was awarded her life membership.

In a ceremony that caught a number of recipients by surprise, the ITA also unveiled a new honour board that will hold pride of place at the One Mile clubhouse.

Former awardees Peter McNeven, Sue Hart, Loretta Verrenkamp (nee Wilson) and Reg Hart assisted with the presentations.

"While their individual contributions are wide and varied, their legacies make the Ipswich Touch Association what it is today," ITA secretary Brad Smith said. "It was the right time to acknowledge their work."

Smolenski is noted for having brought the touch association into the digital age.

In her roles as secretary and treasurer between 1998 and 2006, the Tigers stalwart was responsible for introducing MYOB for the ITA's accounts, setting up the wet weather SMS system and creating the ITA's website.

She has also continued to monitor the website to ensure that its design is at the cutting edge.

Leisemann's commitment to the ITA has been a 30-year affair that began in 1981 as a player for Koalas Touch Club.

Her on-field ability led to representative honours with Ipswich, South West Queensland, Queensland and Australia. She became one of the first Ipswich players to tour overseas.

Since retiring from playing, Leisemann has coached senior representative touch football teams and has been a key driver of the Ipswich Junior Falcons development program.

Rodgers' contributions were made as a team manager and an ITA referee.

He managed Squash United and the Ipswich Falcons representative teams for well over 10 years.

Her service started in the early 1980s when Ipswich dominated the touch football landscape nationally.

This experience brought him higher managerial honours with South West Queensland, State of Origin and Australian open men's teams, including the 1991, 1995 and 1999 World Cup campaigns.

Rodgers officiated as a referee for about 15 years when troublesome knees forced him to hang up his whistle.

"Eleanor (Ian's wife) and I were looking forward to catching up with our friends," said Rodgers after receiving his life membership.

"This is a wonderful surprise and I never imagined that I would be in contention."

Perhaps the most surprised recipient though was Borg, who presented the first three life memberships.

President Ross Pedley took charge of the microphone and began telling of Borg's astonishing achievements.

After arriving in Ipswich from Mackay in 1990, Borg took just two years to gain his Level 6 badge.

In 1994, he became referees director, a position held for the past 19 years.

Borg's other achievements include:

  • Voted Australia's number one referee for 12 consecutive years between 1993 and 2005;
  • Voted number one referee in the world at the 1995 World Cup, a title he held for 10 years;
  • Flag bearer at the 1999 Sydney and 2004 Japan World Cups;
  • 70 Test caps and 46 World Cup games;
  • Named the 1997 and 1999 Touch Football Official of the Year;
  • In 2000, Borg was presented with an Australian Sports Medal.

Borg retired from refereeing in 2004, was inducted into the Touch Football Hall of Fame in 2005 and is a current member of the national coaching panel for referees.

He also works as registrar for the ITA.

"I'm stoked, I had no idea," an excited Borg said.

"This has really caught me off guard and made my night."