Thanks Ipswich: 35 years of great sporting moments
WHAT a fantastic front row opportunity to share in so many wonderful Ipswich sporting achievements.
During the past 35 years at The Queensland Times, I've been fortunate to cover Ipswich's standout performers at the Sydney Olympics, four Commonwealth Games and in historic milestones like Queensland's first Sheffield Shield cricket triumph.
Ipswich sport stars were prominent at each of these major events, along with so many other competitions in sports like rugby league, football, athletics, hockey and baseball.
Sharing in their medal triumphs - and being with them as they reflected on their performances - provided many goosebump moments.
The gold medal victory of history-making Ipswich weightlifter Deb Acason (nee Lovely) at the 2006 Commonwealth Games was among the most satisfying.
After Ipswich's emotion-charged winner completed her winning lift and lit up the stage, she turned to me first to share her accomplishment.
Through tears of raw emotion, Deb revealed how her triumph was in honour of her grandparents Geoffrey and Melody. Geoffrey had died just before the Games and fittingly Deb helped carry the coffin with an Australian flag on it.
Just days earlier in Melbourne, the only chance I had to interview Deb was in a sauna because of Australian team training constraints. It was jump in the hot room for a chat or miss out so I took the former option.
Covering Queensland's drought-breaking Sheffield Shield final success in March 1995 was another hugely gratifying occasion.
Watching from above the Lions dressing rooms while renovations were carried out at the Gabba, I got to see two of my favourite sportsmen Dick Tazelaar and Andy Bichel deliver pivotal roles in beating South Australia. Ecstatic scenes erupted on the field and continued in the dressing room we were allowed to enter after Queensland ended nearly seven decades of cricketing torment.
Being there when freestyler Jenny McMahon collected swimming medals at the 1990 Auckland Games was one of my first major pleasures, having started at the QT on October 8, 1984. Jenny's exhilarating effort was to set the scene for future Commonwealth Games quests in Canada (1994), Kuala Lumpur (1998) and Melbourne 13 years ago. Capturing the reaction of our Ipswich representatives at each of those Games was immensely rewarding.
I knew I was going to love my job from the first day when then QT sports editor Peter Gardiner collared me to follow him to the Racehorse Tavern.
Why? Because that's where Ipswich United were celebrating their latest Brisbane competition soccer victory and the beers were flowing.
Covering sport does have some added advantages.
In 1993, I was invited to join the Brisbane Bandits on their baseball road trip to Adelaide and Perth, again following the deeds of fiercely competitive, world-class Ipswich sportsmen like Peter Vogler and Paul Coogan. Seeing how the national league team prepares provided many valuable insights.
During that era, I got to enjoy many Friday night Australian Baseball League games at the Brisbane Showgrounds, covering locally-based players like Steve Hinton as they rose to international level.
After the Sydney Olympics, one of the most appreciated responses I received was from dedicated Ipswich swimmer Heath Ramsay. Following his stunning 200m butterfly performance at the national championships to qualify for his home Olympics, Heath missed the final at the Homebush pool.
However, he later thanked me for all the support and encouragement on his unforgettable journey. The feeling was mutual as I was always grateful to proud Ipswichians like Heath who went out of their way to help me share their highs and lows, always with respect and honesty.
Looking back over the past three and a half decades, it's not only individual milestones that have generated so much joy for this Ipswich-loving sports writer.
Western Pride's historic National Premier Leagues grand final football victory in 2017 was a city celebration I will long remember. The euphoria was incredible at the Briggs Road Sporting Complex after sharpshooting free-kick specialist Dylan Wenzel-Halls slotted in the winning goal to secure Pride's 2-1 win over Moreton Bay United.
Another wonderful Ipswich party was when the Olympic torch relay came to our sports-mad city before the Sydney Olympics. Limestone Park was abuzz with excitement as thousands of people united to share the true value of sport through their friendships, wanting to cheer on the Ipswich representatives and eager to be part of rare Australian history.
Weeks earlier, I even ventured to a chilly but symbolic Uluru to cover the arrival of the torch at the start of its 2000 Olympic journey around Australia.
While international events have provided many career highlights, being sideline each weekend at sports events around Ipswich continues to be rewarding. Covering finals at grassroots level is always a delight, especially when so many people are willing to embrace my willingness to share their endeavours.
Ipswich's sporting diversity is something we all should be proud of.
But it's not only the exceptional on-field performances that make you appreciate your job. It is dealing with so many dedicated officials, coaches and volunteers who keep Ipswich sport ticking along.
I will always admire the work they do to ensure people of all ages can enjoy the sports they love. Thanks to you all for contributing so much.
As we move increasingly into the digital age, it's important now more than ever that Ipswich sporting milestones continue to be reported.
That's why I urge everyone to invite their sporting fields to take out an inexpensive digital subscription to help old foxes like me maintain consistent local coverage.
The benefits of being part of the new media online landscape are many, including being able to see your local sport stories sooner and browse through them any time at your own leisure.
As much as I love having a QT in my hands, the future is online and we need your support to help us to serve you best.
Where would Ipswich's identity be without sport in the spotlight?
It's been an immensely satisfying 35 years working at the QT, especially at local level where the stars of tomorrow are bred.
May there be many more magic moments ahead and I can keep taking my place in that front row seat.