Volunteer of year thanks clubs, community for COVID support
MODEST Ipswich Hockey COVID co-ordinator June Nicholls joked it would have made life easier had a motorhome been organised.
She could have stayed in temporary accommodation in the Raceview carpark during the Ipswich season that has just finished.
Nicholls and her dedicated helpers spent countless hours at the Ipswich Hockey Complex in recent months ensuring the association's essential COVID Safe Plan was strictly adhered to.
That included checking people in at the venue for nightly club training sessions, Met West primary and high school morning and afternoon requirements and at weekends for matches.
Admission into the complex was controlled through one gate for players, officials and coaches; and another gate for spectators.
Everyone left the ground via one exit point to ensure a safe flow of people away following matches.
For Nicholls and her husband Steve, both long-time nurses, it meant their knowledge was put to the best possible use to ensure this year's so-named Ipswich COVID Competition could proceed.
June was fittingly recognised during the weekend grand finals for her leadership efforts.
She received the annual Paul Mantell Volunteer of the Year award for her valuable contribution getting hockey back up and running after the coronavirus sporting shutdown in March.
However, she was quick to share the honour with other hardworking Ipswich association and club people including regional coaching co-ordinator Hugh Hocking and the ever-dependable Tracey Doyle.
"It was a lovely surprise,'' Nicholls said of being acknowledged.
"I'm really proud of it and I'm really pleased.
"I feel good about receiving it but it truly was not just me.
"Hugh was as much involved in it and the (IHA) executive supported us and we had one co-ordinator from every club. And that's how we did it.
"It really was a club, association and a community effort.''
In what was quickly becoming a very different looking season, Nicholls thanked another major contributor.
"Tracey Doyle did an absolutely brilliant job with all the stuff going out on Facebook and emails to all the members,'' she said.
Nicholls has been involved with Ipswich hockey for more than 50 years, including as a Vets player and a Queensland masters representative in recent years.
However, her 42 years as a registered nurse with infectious control knowledge was why she offered to help.
"The association put out an expression of interest saying that if we didn't have someone to be the COVID co-ordinator, then we wouldn't be able to get a season up and running,'' she said.
"I knew it was going to be a fairly intense thing to do.
"Time wise - my time being out at hockey - and also getting the plan, answering questions, doing sessions with the clubs and the staff.''
She appreciated the support of her husband Stephen, who understood the demands with his nursing experience.
Sticking closely to recommendations by the Queensland Government, Queensland Health and Hockey Queensland, Nicholls began building Ipswich Hockey's version of the industry plan for community sport.
"We had changing situations all the time and then we had a lot of local stuff,'' she said.
"It was like near the end of our nine weeks (competition) that people started feeling safe that everything was good . . . but we had to keep reminding people.''
She said hockey goers, like everyone else in the community, needed to have the message reinforced how important it was to stay safe. "And not just think about yourself but other people.
"We've got a lot of nurses that play, a lot of people going to the different schools and the different schools and it was just reminding people to be mindful (of the situation).''
Thankfully, those visiting the hockey complex followed the requests, albeit with certain regular areas shut down or tightly supervised.
The dressing rooms were locked and upstairs clubhouse restricted.
Arrows and markings everywhere made it clear where people could safely pass through.
"We would have liked to have been able to open more areas but we are very much a volunteer-based association,'' Nicholls said.
"We don't have too many paid staff.
"We are a very grassroots association and sport that we rely heavily on our volunteers.
"If we couldn't abide by the COVID guidelines then we couldn't open.
"We could only do what we thought was best for our hockey - and that's what our aim was.''
While overseeing the COVID Safe Plan was a priority, Nicholls managed to get some games with the A2 Vets and filling in for the R2 Vets side that won last weekend's grand final.
She retains links with Wests Hockey Club.
After such a challenging year, the valuable volunteer hopes to enjoy some masters hockey in 2021.
And after talking to so many people at the check-in gate, she was excited about Ipswich hockey's future.
"It looks very bright,'' she said. "We've got some lovely young players and lovely polite kids coming through.''