Teaching value of aiming high
AS a regional teacher, Ben O'Connell enjoys encouraging his students to strive high in a range of disciplines.
That includes sport where he is West Moreton Anglican College's Director of Rugby.
However, it's in cricket where the WestMAC Middle School head of year eight has excelled in recent years.
O'Connell, 30, represented the Queensland Country Brahman's team for the fourth time at the Australian Country championships in South Australia early this year.
The Queenslanders finished third in Mt Gambier, a year after winning the national title and when O'Connell was named player of the tournament.
"We underperformed in both our two-dayers, where more points count,'' the allrounder said.
"We lost both of our two-dayers and subsequently couldn't finish any higher.''
Given limited opportunities with the ball this time, his best bowling effort was 4/13 in the last one-day match against the East Asia Pacific side.
He made some 20 and 30 run contributions batting at number four.
While hoping for a better finish at his latest campaign, O'Connell enjoys every opportunity to play representative cricket.
"It's good to be back playing at that higher level,'' he said.
The powerful left-handed batsman and spin bowler will have plenty of competitive cricket to play this season if his Ipswich club side Centrals secure a first division semi-final spot.
Centrals can keep their two-day premiership hopes alive by beating Brothers this weekend to qualify for the semi-final a week later.
Third-placed Centrals hope to build on their progress after losing the T20 final to Laidley at Baxter Oval on Monday night.
"We've been a bit more consistent this year, which is good,'' the captain said.
"We'd like to be sitting a bit higher in second place but leading into this last round knowing we have to win just gives us that bit more drive and incentive to not let off.''
While helping Centrals is a major focus, O'Connell is unsure whether he'll contest a fifth national country titles next year.
"It's probably just year by year for me at the moment,'' Brassall-based O'Connell said, having increased work demands and a new addition to the family on the way.
O'Connell is in his second year teaching at WestMAC after stints at Lowood State School and Churchie.
He also plays Sub-Districts rugby for Ipswich Rangers when he can in the cricket off-season.
The five-eight/halfback carries similar advice when he straps on the footy boots or chats to his students.
"Number one, you have to enjoy what you're doing,'' he said.
"And probably the second thing is knowing your game inside and out.''
Hearing that from previous coaches like Len Martin, Scott Barrett and Craig Jesberg, O'Connell likes to reinforce the message when teaching.
"It's good not only to help kids outside the classroom but inside the classroom as well,'' he said. "Trying to model as best I can the things that I think are going to work.''
For his sporting achievements, O'Connell is the QT-City of Ipswich senior monthly sportstar for December in the 2015/16 awards.
He joins weightlifter Erika Ropati-Frost (November), swimmer Leah Neale (September), masters triathlete Greg Lebeter (August) and shooter Scott Dawson (July). No senior winner was named for October.
How to nominate
Be eligible to share in the 2015/16 City of Ipswich Sports Awards by applying for an Ipswich City Council bursary.
Council offers Sport Excellence Bursaries of up to $300 to amateur junior and senior Ipswich residents who represent Queensland or Australia at a sporting event.
Applying is easy through the online application form available on Ipswich City Council's website at: http://www.ipswich.qld.gov.au
Junior and senior people awarded a Sport Excellence Bursary will automatically go in the running to receive a monthly Ipswich Sports Award.