SHE’S as much an institution at Olympians as the inspiration behind the club’s name is and this year will see Dot Burgess surpass a half-century of service.
Burgess has been there almost from the club’s beginnings and is a testament to longevity, with this season her 51st of grade hockey in Tamworth and for Olympians.
“We (family) came up here in 1956 (from Mayfield),” Burgess recalled.
“I played juniors down at No. 3 Oval in those days (now Bicentennial Park).”
Then in 1961, Beryl Griffiths, who had founded the Olympians club a few years earlier, asked her to play for Olympians.
Dot was still a teenager at the time and over the years has enjoyed her share of success with the club, winning a handful of titles in the 20 plus years she played in first grade.
There were a few years too they were minor premiers but beaten at the final hurdle.
“We had two or three years when we went through undefeated and got beaten in the grand final,” Burgess said.
It was a different game back then – rules, equipment and even the competition.
“We used to go to carnivals,” Burgess recalled.
“Saturday we’d play local games and then Sundays we went away to carnivals.”
Those days they also played in what was called Country Week at the end of June.
“We used to go to Sydney for a week and play at Rushcutter’s Bay,” Burgess said.
They were fun weeks and proved a stepping stone to higher honours.
“In those days you had to play in the senior ranks to get into a NSW junior team,” Burgess said.
She made junior NSW teams in 1961 and 1962.
“We went to Melbourne and we went to Sydney the next year,” she said.
From that she was then selected in the Australian team although she didn’t get to wear the green and gold then anyway, with no-one to play.
“I was very fortunate in those early days to have two good coaches in Beryl (Griffiths) and Ron George,” Burgess said.
“I wouldn’t have achieved what I did without them.”
“What helped me too was I always had good players around me.”
She was originally a striker but has played as a half most of her career.
“It’s been good to me,” she said.
“I’ve made so many lifetime friends that I still have.”
And got to travel to places she might not necessarily have had the opportunity to.
“I’ve been around Australia with vets, probably twice around,” she said.
She made her first NSW team in 1985 and was involved in the vets’ program for around 25 years, playing right up to the Over 60s.
“I retired from rep in 2010,” she said.
“That year the nationals were in Canberra. We (over 60s) were undefeated national champions.”
“We went out on top.”
It was playing with the vets that she enjoyed probably the highlight of her career.
“Probably one of the greatest things was I was selected in 1988 as Over 40s captain,” she said.
“It was a surprise and an honour.”
The championships that year were in Alice Springs and Burgess led them to bronze.
Off the field she’s also been heavily involved in the game.
She’s coached junior teams and various Olympians grade sides, presided as president and been the umpire convener for Olympians and is a life member of both Olympians and the Tamworth Hockey Association.
All the while still running around the field and loving it, these days in fourth grade,
“I’d love to be playing first grade but my poor old body doesn’t allow it,” she said.
“I’m only there for the fun of it.
“But it’s been a great journey for me.”