Ipswich sport’s 2020 highlights: Were you in the spotlight?
IN a year of uncertainty where incredible resilience was needed, Ipswich clubs and sportspeople stood tall.
Many brave and ultimately positive decisions were made by sporting administrators in the face of challenges never experienced before.
In the second of a two-part A-Z series, let us look back at key moments, issues and amazing highlights, alphabetically from N-Z.
N - Nathan and netball
HIGH-flying basketballer Nathan Sobey's sensational efforts for Ipswich helped the Force men reach the Queensland State League semi-final.
That was a feat the Ipswich men had previously been unable to achieve in many years at state level.
The Australian and Brisbane Bullets scoring machine led the way on and off the court.
Apart from topping the points in nearly every game, Sobey provided valuable guidance to the young Force players in what was a massively beneficial season.
In netball, the region was again well represented by two Jets teams (Sapphires and Rubies) and SEQ Cup neighbours Ipswich Flyers and Goodna Sapphires.
The Jets Sapphires and Goodna Sapphires made grand finals.
The experienced Goodna side won their third SEQ Cup title in four years.
O - Obituaries
THE Ipswich region lost some popular larrikins this year, including Gary Parcell, Noel "Ned'' Kelly, Ken Boettcher and Bruce Ogden.
Parcell was a loyal and family-focused footballer who never left the area while representing Queensland 14 times and lining up for Australia in eight Tests from 1956-62.
Parcell was part of the famous all-Ipswich front row in 1960, alongside Kelly and Dud Beattie.
Kelly also passed this year, leaving a legacy of toughness for others to admire.
Named hooker in Queensland and Australian teams of the 20th century, Kelly was as tenacious as they come.
The passing of Parcell and Kelly came after Ipswich lost leading rugby league administrator Boettcher early in the year.
Boettcher devoted more than 60 years to his sport, including long stints in major roles with Swifts Sports Club.
Ogden was one of the city's favourite storytellers.
The Ipswich Musketeers baseball great was well known for sharing a beer and a laugh, often at the Coronation Hotel.
P - Partnerships
THE formation of Cricket Ipswich was well received this year after months of planning.
Officials and players with the Ipswich Hornets and the Ipswich and West Moreton Cricket Association (IWMCA) can work more closely under the new Cricket Ipswich structure.
"It's ideal really,'' Hornets head coach Aaron Moore said, preparing for his third season leading the first grade side in the Queensland Premier Grade competition.
The merger was approved after a series of constructive talks.
A priority is building a stronger pathway from local cricket to the Hornets teams playing in higher level competitions.
Former IWMCA president Mike Stoodley was appointed to lead the new board, assisted by vice-president Peter Leschke, treasurer Josh Buffett and other key members Chris Wilson and Matthew James.
"It's a nice good link,'' Moore said. "We've got a direct pathway now, and governed by the one board, who has everyone's interests at heart.''
Stoodley was also pleased with the board that was chosen from a strong field of nominations.
"The board itself is really high quality people,'' he said.
"To me, that just justifies all the effort that we've put in over the last couple of months to get a unified body.''
Heading into the Christmas break, Stoodley conceded some teething issues were still being ironed out.
"It's one of those things where you need to do all the groundwork in terms of consultation and coming up with a new model and getting everybody on board,'' Stoodley said.
"It's a brand new organisation and it takes a while to get the off-field processes in place.''
However, Stoodley praised everyone working hard on bringing all aspects of regional cricket together.
"It's all credit to the people around the game that they have been able to put games on the park and continue on and we've able to get some pretty good cricket underway,'' he said.
Another historic partnership was formed between Western Pride and world renowned Everton Football Club.
Western Pride general manager Pat Boyle is delighted how the new arrangement is progressing with regular Zoom meetings between Pride officials and coaches, and their Everton counterparts.
"It is wonderful. They are a wealth of knowledge and nothing is too much of a burden for them,'' Boyle said.
"They are providing us, not only football information, but assistance around how we deliver, how the coaches deliver, how we deliver a business entity.
"We're in talks with them twice a week and then the coaches can even contact their (Everton's) coaching staff directly.''
Boyle was impressed how Everton staff were so willing to share information.
"It has simply taken our program to a whole new level,'' he said.
"They are just there whenever we need them and it's just a breath of fresh air.''
Q - Queensland Times
DISCUSSIONS around the region continue to raise the subject of how much the QT paper is missed.
It's amazing how widely Ipswich's major source of printed news was appreciated.
Thankfully though, many long-time QT paper readers are embracing the online digital format which still carries valuable Ipswich news not provided anywhere else.
Sport remains a major focus as proven by the hundreds of local stories published online since the QT paper closed.
Older readers are starting to learn how to tap into the valuable online resource, discovering so much present and past content that is easily accessed when shown how.
R - Racing and Rangers
THE Ipswich Turf Club this year continued to lead the way in Queensland on many fronts, especially with the opening on the Ipswich Events and Entertainment Centre.
The modern new facility is part of a $24.8 million redevelopment that has revitalised the Bundamba venue.
All that was most welcome in a year the hugely popular Ipswich Cup meeting was called off due to COVID.
In another major announcement, general manager Brett Kitching is retiring in February after giving 16 years of tremendous service.
Kitching is being replaced by Tim Dunn who arrives with an abundance of enthusiasm and fresh surroundings to work with.
ITC marketing, sales and communications manager Claire Power deserves a special mention for her efforts, including helping with photos on race days, especially during strict COVID lockdowns.
In the other racing codes, Trot Tactics columnist Denis Smith continued to provide a relevant mix of news, issues and regional achievements in his weekly harness wrap-up.
Similarly, QT greyhound columnist Isaac Murphy offered a colourful review of successes and dogs to watch in his weekly roundup of Ipswich meetings.
In rugby, Ipswich Rangers officials, coaches, players and supporters had an extra reason to enjoy their Christmas break.
Rangers were the champion Queensland Suburban Rugby Union (QSRU) senior club this year.
Rangers were awarded the QRSU Sydney Cup for having a premiership-winning team, a runners-up women's combination and a fourth-place finish.
It was the first time since the early 1990s Rangers had secured that champion club honour.
"That's a big achievement for us,'' club president Rohan McPhail said.
Despite the COVID challenges, Rangers also had a boost in player numbers and celebrated three junior teams winning their grand finals.
McPhail appreciates the contribution of everyone who helped Rangers recover from a fragile pre-season position to finish the year so strongly.
"I'm probably more proud of the club, the fact the way that the members supported us,'' he said. "The way the club was able to come together and still run a successful year.''
The Rangers Normanby Cup team completed a remarkable unbeaten campaign with a 32-3 grand final victory over Logan.
The Rangers women's side went from strength to strength under new coach Niccy Muller to make the grand final at Ballymore.
Three Rangers junior divisional teams also won premierships this year, providing enhanced hopes for the future.
S - Soccer internationals, sports awards and Sara
REGIONAL soccer fanatics Ross Hallett and John Roderick deserve ongoing praise for the incredible project they showcased at a special function in February.
The International Honour Board unveiled at the Ipswich Knights clubhouse is a precious collection of achievement that needs to be remembered and treasured.
It's the most comprehensive and complete history of Ipswich's world-class footballers, compiled by two of the city's most experienced soccer enthusiasts.
The finished product is a splendid showcase of 55 internationals to have played for Ipswich clubs since the early 1920s. They include national captains, feared goal scorers and some of Ipswich's best known sporting families like the Kitchings, Gibbs, Nunns and Voglers.
The honour board lists an impressive array of talent from Ipswich's first capped Socceroo Alex Gibb in 1922 to the most recent national player Neil Kilkenny (cap 493 in 2006).
In between are many footballers, each with terrific stories of endeavour.
The 2020 City of Ipswich Sports awards were staged under a COVID-safe plan with reduced function numbers.
The winners included two Ipswich international sport stars who have travelled on vastly different paths to World Cup success.
However, highly regarded softballer Joshua Routledge and multi-talented martial artist Blake Murray share a common bond.
They are both proud Ipswich born and bred achievers who are eager to give back to their sports when not accomplishing remarkable individual feats.
Routledge, 18, was crowned the 2020 City of Ipswich Sportsperson of the Year at the prestigious awards function at the North Ipswich Reserve Corporate Centre.
Having made an All-World merit team after being a standout performer at the 2020 Junior World Cup, Routledge was already looking ahead to next year's World Cup in Argentina.
The onset of COVID reduced his representative opportunities in recent months.
Routledge was named the number one centrefielder in the world for his age after this year's New Zealand tournament.
He starred for the Australian Junior Steelers that won the silver medal against leading softball nations Japan, the United States, New Zealand, Guatemala, Czech Republic, Denmark, Singapore, Canada, Mexico, South Africa and Argentina.
Versatile junior Murray underlined his ever-growing skills and maturity by excelling in three international sports.
The latest City of Ipswich Junior Sportsperson of the Year is the world's best in his under-18 age group for taekwondo and Haidong Gumdo, a traditional form of sword cutting.
The Queensland, national and Oceania champion achieved both feats in Korea.
After winning his first Haidong Gumdo world title in 2017, the Flinders View teenager was told repeating that against world-acclaimed Koreans was unlikely as he got older.
However, he stepped up his training - up to four hours a day - and rose above that mental obstacle to prove Australians can win against the best.
Murray's diary of taekwondo and Haidong Gumdo competitions is jam-packed with countless wins and placings from regional to national and international levels.
Remarkably during all that, Blake added a second place in judo senior competition at the nationals.
He was invited to the Australian Institute of Sport, working with national and Brazilian coaches over two weeks.
The 2020 Ipswich Sports Award function was the 11th annual event, fittingly with a theme: "Will to win, never give in''.
A reduced number of 80 guests attended under a COVID-safe plan instigated by Ipswich City Council.
Other winners included Stacey Taurima (Coach of the Year).
The Agility Dog Club of Queensland received the Association of the Year honour for its national and international achievements. Club member Catharina Slot was named Volunteer of the Year.
The Ipswich Flyers netball side was named Team of the Year after winning last year's Queensland Premier League SEQ Cup grand final.
High-achieving basketball referee Jordan Harton was honoured as Official of the Year.
Ipswich sporting ambassador Clay Dawson was a popular choice as Masters Sportsperson of the Year for his never-ending athletic feats.
Among the region's other major award winners this year was Ipswich born and bred hockey player and coach Sara Rogers.
Rogers set the standard on the field with her fitness and positional play. She also demanded commitment to training off the field, especially with the men she coaches.
The popular personal trainer captained the Hancocks women's team to grand final victory in Ipswich Hockey's "Return to Play'' A-Grade season.
Twenty four hours earlier, she coached the Hancocks men to their latest grand final triumph over Norths.
Rogers' leadership as women's skipper and men's mentor proved crucial under pressure.
Overseeing two grand final successes was a fitting reward for the former Australian Country captain and Hockey Queensland Association Coach of the Year who is keen to further her higher level career.
T - Teamwork
THE most fundamental requirement to be successful was tested to the extreme after the COVID sporting shutdown in March.
Players, coaches and officials were suddenly required to find fresh ways of working together to ensure sport continued.
New training timetables were needed to ensure players kept in smaller groups.
Players had to arrive, check in as a team, play and head home or back to the carpark after games.
Players and coaches had no or reduced access to dressing sheds before games.
Spectators had to spread out and were encouraged to remain seated where possible.
Cash transactions were replaced with tap-only functions.
Despite all this, a new level of teamwork was clearly on show at sporting grounds around the region.
U - United.
IN tough times like we have all experienced this year, a common goal must be to stay united.
It was heartening travelling around the regional sports fields during winter to see so many people working together to keep sport functioning.
Congratulations and thanks to you all.
V - Volunteers Cup, vigoro milestone.
THE inaugural Volunteers Cup rugby league competition featuring teams from Ipswich and Toowoomba was a huge success.
That was especially the case given the 10 week series was formed in a short space of time after the respective Ipswich and Toowoomba 2020 competitions were called off due to COVID.
Some fantastic football was played with the Goodna Eagles named champions after being the competition entertainers.
Full credit to the Rugby League Ipswich, Toowoomba Rugby League and Queensland Rugby League officials for creating a Bulimba Cup style format.
It was also the Ipswich Vigoro Association's 90th anniversary. The milestone was celebrated at the Ipswich Showgrounds last month after COVID shattered plans to hold it earlier in the year.
An All-Star team from the first nine decades was chosen and association president Deanne Lawrie was awarded life membership.
W - Western Pride, Willowbank Raceway.
WESTERN Pride FC had a mixed year of fortune with the club's National Premier League women's side forced to withdraw over coaching issues.
The appointment of new coach Trent Gregson will help restore the Pride women's program in 2021.
The senior men's team also had a tough, COVID-interrupted season with the major positive being the ongoing development of the club's exciting young men.
Coach Andrew Catton showed tremendous faith in his young players, battling through a number of Football Queensland Premier League challenges.
The club's under-18 side won the premiership and Pride's under-20 men came second (on goal difference).
Pride's junior teams also impressed, offering some more positive signs for the future.
A coup for the club was securing and announcing a massive partnership with world-renowned English Premier League club Everton.
Pride has access to all aspects of Everton's structure from club management to coaching and development.
Willowbank Raceway officials had a stop-start year due to COVID and strict border closures. The annual Winternationals drag racing championships was among the casualties. However, events began resuming late in the year with hopes of more big events returning in 2021.
Raceway officials and participants also welcomed new CEO Blair Conaghan, a successful administrator with extensive sporting experience having worked in Sydney, with the North Queensland Cowboys and at the Gabba managing major events.
X - X-rays.
AS is regularly the case in sport, X-rays are often needed for the injuries that occur.
This year was particularly injury-prone for players, who had reduced time to warm up with scheduling changes and extended seasons.
Some teams were down to their bare 11 or 13 come season's end.
Y - You.
YOU, the loyal Queensland Times readers deserve massive thanks for sticking with our online digital service.
It has been a major transition from the paper we loved to exclusively online. But by subscribing to QT online and encouraging your friends to do the same, you are helping us maintain high quality local coverage.
I want nothing more than to be able to keep providing consistent coverage for our proud sporting clubs and high-achieving individuals. But you ongoing subscription suppport is crucial.
Z - Zero tolerance.
AS dedicated Ipswich sporting officials go the extra mile keeping their venues safe, we don't need anyone breaching the COVID-safe restrictions.
As you return to sport in 2021, please sign in properly, keep your distance and assist administrators to ensure competition can continue next year.
As was highlighted in a recent six-part Ipswich sporting dynasties series, we have a rich sporting history to build on.