Best of Ipswich hockey recognised at gala awards night
GROWING up playing hockey, Chris Mantell heard that Barry Dancer was one of Ipswich's most successful sportsmen and coaches.
So it was fitting that Mantell met the former international player and mentor twice during his most successful hockey season.
Recently-named Australian Country captain Mantell worked with Dancer when he ran a session with the Ipswich open representative team preparing for this year's state titles.
Mantell recalls being amazed at "the amount of information he could give in an hour and a half he was out there''.
"I've spoken to him a few times and seen all his achievements on the field and coaching but catching up was pretty special.''
Mantell's second important meeting with Dancer was on Friday night.
The Easts, Ipswich, Queensland Country and Australian Country player received the Barry Dancer Award for Excellence at Ipswich Hockey's Gala Awards function at Brothers Leagues Club.
"The last couple of weeks have been good,'' Mantell, 27, preparing to lead his country on next year's country tour to Hong Kong and Japan.
"An excellence award. That makes it pretty special.''
Dancer presented the award to Mantell in between his stint as coach of the Punjab Warriors in the India Hockey League.
Ipswich born and bred Dancer played 48 internationals for Australia, winning an Olympic silver medal as a player in 1976. He coached the Kookaburras to gold medal glory at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
Dancer praised hockey's latest award winners and association leaders for "showing the way not only for this generation but the next generation''.
Mantell, 27, typifies that current group of players contributing to junior development and being a positive role model.
"It's just good fun,'' Mantell said of why he's so heavily involved in the sport. "Anything I do for hockey I want to enjoy it.
"You go out there on a Saturday morning with the under-five kids and help them learn to play hockey but it's just good fun watching them play hockey.
"Hookin2Hockey is really good. It's always a good place to start.''
Having a similar love of the game was the night's other major 2015 winner Sara Rogers.
She was recently chosen in the Australian Country team for a fourth international series next year, in addition to coaching club, under-18 and school teams.
Rogers won the annual Amy Korner Award for Excellence, which also recognised qualities like commitment, performance and leadership.
"It's always good when you get an individual award in a team sport,'' Rogers, 28, said.
"I do owe a lot to my teammates, especially my younger teammates who are always there to inspire me and bring me back to reality when I come back from my tours.''
The fitness fanatic had a 7am start the next morning as part of her work as coach of the Ipswich Girls' Grammar team.
"It's an area that I have qualified in coaching,'' she said.
"I actually enjoy the coaching aspect very much and a lot of the (Ipswich) 18 girls are teammates now so I really enjoy seeing them grow, especially for the future.''
Like Mantell and his admiration for Dancer, Rogers was delighted to receive her award from another fine Ipswich product Amy Kickbusch (nee Korner).
"I have a lot of respect for Amy Korner. To get an award named after her is pretty special,'' Rogers said.
SARA Rogers was recognised on the same night as her long-serving father Murray (above) received the Herb Eleison Award for services to umpiring.
Murray modestly rejected being worthy, despite all his hard work and having to judge previous winners in his former role as umpires association president.
Another popular winner among the 160 guests was June Nicholls, who received the inaugural Masters Excellence Award. The Queensland over 60's representative has also been a major contributor as a masters coach and selector and president of the Vets Hockey Club.
Records secretary Lesley McLeod was the deserved volunteer of the year winner for her vital efforts ensuring everyone gets to enjoy their hockey matches each week.
"I do it because I like to see everyone play hockey,'' she said.
- Barry Dancer Award for Excellence: Chris Mantell.
- Amy Korner Award for Excellence: Sara Rogers.
- Masters Award for Excellence: June Nicholls.
- Paul Mantell Volunteer of the Year: Lesley McLeod.
- Herb Eleison Award for Services to Umpiring: Murray Rogers.
- Basil Coker Shield for Umpiring Achievement: Aaron Gotting.
- Club championships (top three): Men - Norths 186, Hancock Brothers 139, Wests 121. Women: Wests 180, Hancock Brothers 157, Norths 127.
2015 players of the year:
A grade men: Greg Walker. (Wests). A grade women: Layla Eleison (Hancock Brothers).
Reserve grade men: Anthony Woodward (Norths). Reserve grade women: Kelly McNamara (Hancock Brothers).
R2 women: Lynette Barnes. (Wests). A2 men: Craig Barrett (Easts). A2 women: Michelle O'Connor (Collegians).