CROWD FAVOURITE: Australian netball legend Liz Ellis joins members of the Ipswich Flyers netball team on Saturday night.
CROWD FAVOURITE: Australian netball legend Liz Ellis joins members of the Ipswich Flyers netball team on Saturday night. Rob Williams

Ellis message hits home on big night

FORMER Australian captain Liz Ellis highlighted the need to be professional, prepared and pumped up to achieve international glory.

She displayed those qualities in leading Australia to an emotional upset World Cup victory over the high-flying New Zealanders in 2007.

However, her most powerful message at the 2012 QT-City of Ipswich Sports Awards was something sportspeople at all levels should do regularly.

On a night where leading regional volunteers, club officials and administrators were showcased, the guest speaker said it was important to thank the parents and partners "who don't show up in any statistics".

"Say thank you and say it like you mean it," Australia's most capped international netball player said.

"Or for the younger folk, send a text."

It was a well-received piece of advice at the Ipswich Civic Centre where 290 guests enjoyed the gala sports awards function backed by Ipswich City Council, the Ipswich Sports House and your QT.

Two common themes shared by the winners were pride in being from Ipswich and wanting to provide the best grassroots sport.

"It's an absolute privilege to help our kids," volunteer of the year Rose Baxter said.

Baxter fittingly accepted her award with a glowing smile similar to what she often sees on the faces of young cricketers she nurtures.

But while all the winners were humble and deserved recipients, three final accolades best captured what the prestigious Ipswich Sports Awards represent.

Ipswich sporting icons John Cushing, Gail Lyne and Les Kinnane were honoured with lifetime achievement awards for their outstanding commitment to sport.

Having devoted more than 50 years to hockey and the community, former Citizen of the Year Cushing said he did it for a simple reason.

"I have a motto," the long-serving former Ipswich Hockey Association president and official said.

"If you keep youngsters on a playing field, you keep them out of court."

Lyne, another life member, offered similar sentiments, having dedicated 49 years to netball.

She said seeing 1000 kids on the netball courts every Saturday was incentive enough to remain passionate about her sport.

"When kids play team sport, it does make them better people in the community," the respected player, coach, umpire and administrator said.

Ipswich lost one of its most versatile volunteers when Kinnane died earlier this year.

In accepting the posthumous award, Kinnane's daughter Kerri Michel summed up his outstanding contribution as a teacher who had nine life memberships from the sports he loved.

"I can honestly say Dad was the king of volunteers in Ipswich sport," Michel said.

"There wasn't anything he wouldn't do for sport in Ipswich.

"Dad's legacy was that he wanted grassroots of sport to be the most important thing that you can do."

Such treasured commitment is what makes Ipswich regional sport so relevant.

Congratulations to all the sports award winners - and as Ellis rightly suggested - to everyone who helped achieve those successes.

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