WELL DONE: Long-time sports administrator Ken Boettcher is retiring after 63 years. He’s pictured with two of his sons – Mark (left) and Darren.
WELL DONE: Long-time sports administrator Ken Boettcher is retiring after 63 years. He’s pictured with two of his sons – Mark (left) and Darren. Inga Williams

Swifts stalwart stands aside

HAVING devoted more than 60 years to sport, Ken Boettcher could chat all day about everything from club challenges and achievements, to Kangaroo tours and dedicated volunteers.

But as he sits at his kitchen table surrounded by awards, Boettcher shares a story of loyalty.

From his playing days with Booval Swifts to his recent retirement as Swifts Sports Club chairman, Boettcher has been one of Ipswich's most committed sporting figures.

It hasn't always been easy as Swifts have purchased and sold grounds, faced diminishing sponsorship pools and tackled financial hurdles that many progressive sporting clubs do.

However, Boettcher sums up his attitude in a couple of sentences.

"A lot of people don't look ahead but I've always looked forward,'' the Silkstone resident said.

"It just came along and some of those jobs became a bit of an obsession.''

A list of those jobs, and associated work, fill up nearly six pages of A4 paper.

In summary, he was Swifts Sports Club board chairman for the past 13 years after stints since 1956 as secretary, patron and president with the Bluebirds.

He was named a life member of Booval Swifts Rugby League Football Club and, in 2006, was inducted into the Swifts Hall of Fame.

He's also been recognised by the South East Queensland Division and in the Ipswich Australia Day awards for his outstanding service.

Much of his early work was at Swifts' former headquarters in Joyce Street, East Ipswich, which is now the home of Ipswich vigoro.

Boettcher played a leading role in the club's move to Purga, securing the new site and improving the facilities.

In 2012, the Swifts clubhouse was named after Ken Boettcher.

But turning 83 in August, the former chemist and real estate agent is breaking free of full-time rugby league commitments.

After working up to 70 hours a week in sports administration, Boettcher sounds relieved to be stepping down.

With his sons Mark and Darren listening intently either side of him, Ken tells how his epic administrative career began.

"They talked me into that. They had nobody else,'' Ken said, having tried rugby at school before switching to rugby league.

As a player, Ken was also urged into a new role for Booval Swifts.

"I always reckon I would have been the best at second row but they had no bigger players to play in the front row so I played all front row,'' he said.

Boettcher is proud of the fact he only ever played A grade in the Ipswich competition.

He lined up in one Bulimba Cup match for Ipswich in 1956, being denied further opportunities at a time Booval Swifts had Australian players like Dud Beattie and Gary Parcell lacing on the boots.

It all ended for Boettcher, aged 24, in a preliminary final for Swifts against Brothers. He scored three tries before seriously injuring his knee.

The natural transition was into sports administration.

With the Swifts club struggling in the early and mid-fifties, Boettcher became secretary, helping keep the club afloat.

"I was very close to the players who always were a great help in fund raising and certainly were more responsible for raising finance than the actual committee at the time,'' he said.

After also boosting their juniors, Swifts won the A grade and Reserve grade premierships in 1961. That started a resurgence.

One of the former president's achievements was designing new football jerseys with coloured bars in Swifts colours. The jerseys were considered upmarket and unusual at the time.

Ken and his current wife Barbara married in 1989.

Ken and his first wife Shirley were married for 30 years.

Born in Townsville in 1933, Ken moved around as a youngster with his father Victor being a minister of religion and chaplain in the army.

Ken grew up at Ma Ma Creek, near Gatton, and spent time in Kingaroy before completing his primary schooling at Roma and in Toowoomba.

After moving to Basin Pocket with his grandmother, he attended Ipswich Grammar as a boarder and played rugby.

However, Ken quickly rediscovered his passion for league.

He worked as a chemist in the Ipswich CBD, before a stint in real estate from 1971.

Even during a period of "retirement'' at the Gold Coast, Ken continued to be actively involved in the Swifts club and Ipswich Old Boys Association.

Mark and Darren are two of five boys in the rugby league-mad family. Gary, Brett and Craig also played for Swifts.

As the interview nears its completion, former Ipswich Rugby League chairman Mark and Darren clearly enjoyed hearing their father reflect on his sporting life.

Darren, still heavily involved in rugby league, summed the pride up perfectly.

"One thing I can take away from what dad's done, and Mark is probably the same, is it's grained into the Boettchers that you work hard, you play hard,'' Darren said.

Ken fittingly had the final word.

"I always worked long hours, seven days a week,'' he said. "I was never home but I always found time for football in between.

"How the hell I done it, I don't know.''



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