Faces of Tamworth: Water polo stalwarts Sean Hofman, Gail Salter and Ross White

Recognition: (L-R) Sean Hofman, Gail Salter and Ross White have been honoured with life membership of Tamworth Water Polo.
Recognition: (L-R) Sean Hofman, Gail Salter and Ross White have been honoured with life membership of Tamworth Water Polo.

Tamworth wouldn’t be producing the water polo talent it is today without Gail Salter, Ross White and Sean Hofman. Still actively involved, the trio were at the end of the recent summer season awarded life membership in recognition of their over 20 years of service.

“Honoured” was the collective sentiment of Gail Salter, Ross White and Sean Hofman after the stalwarts were recognised for their dedication and contribution to Tamworth Water Polo with life membership.

The three have all been actively involved in and out of the water for more than 20 years and join an illustrious group, of now eight, to be awarded life membership.

“I’m pretty honoured to be in there with blokes like Ron (Surtees) and Lawrence (Mihell). I learnt a lot from those guys,” White said.

The first female to be receive life membership, Salter’s initial reaction was one of shock.

Hofman meanwhile spoke of feeling “very honoured” but “slightly embarrassed”.

“It is a big honour but I didn’t think I had done enough to warrant it,” he said.

The three all had a familiar story to tell of where it all began for them – as students at Tamworth High School.

The school has long been a nursery for water polo talent.

“I started in Year 9 and played all through school,” Salter recalled.

“We were all strong swimmers at THS. It was pretty well a case of why can’t we play and we said to Oscar Leonard and David Crowe will you coach us?.”

She was part of the first Tamworth women’s side to compete at the Country Championships, and has contributed to the development of the sport at a school, club and representative level in a coaching, official and administrative capacity.

She has held various roles on the committee over the years and when not managing representative sides can often be found on the pool deck whistle in hand. Regarded as the top women’s referee in NSW, she is just back from refereeing at the 18 & Under National Club Championships, where she was awarded the plate final.

Driven by a passion to provide Country athletes every opportunity to progress, Salter has also been Water Polo NSW’s Country Director since 2015.

Hofman’s involvement stretches back over 30 years.

He first started playing in Year 7 at THS and only recently hung up his cap after finding he was getting “too old and cranky to play”.

“I played through school and then a couple of years after. Then I went to the Central Coast for four years,” he said.

“I came back in 99 and started coaching not long after that.”

Also residing as president for a number of years, it is arguably as a coach that he has left his biggest imprint, coaching countless junior school and representative sides over the years.

Only on the weekend he was in Albury with the Tamworth under-14 girls coaching them to a top 20 finish at the National Club Championships.

Last year he coached the Tamworth High under-15 girls to the schools first state water polo knockout for a number of years.

“I enjoy the purity of coaching kids. They are a clean slate. They want to get in and learn how to play the game and have fun,” he said.

Sean Hofman with the Tamworth under-14 girls at Glenrowan.

Sean Hofman with the Tamworth under-14 girls at Glenrowan.

White has served as a player, administrator and volunteer for over 20 years.

He first joined the Tamworth Water Polo committee in 1994 and has held the position of president, secretary and treasurer, sometimes on more than one occasion.

Starting out with the Southgate mixed B grade side, White has coached numerous Southgate sides and Tamworth opens and junior representative sides over the years.

He has also been selected to coach NSW under-14s and NSW Country sides. 

He has over his time seen a lot of changes and recalled the golden days of water polo in the 80’s when they “had both pools going”.

There was then the lows of the mid-90’s when all bar one of the major clubs stopped playing.

“We’ve built it up from there,” he said.

Not quite to the same level but thenumber of country and state selections shows they are doing something right.

The biggest change though has been the transition from just a Summer sport to year-round.

There is with that though a lot more opportunities.

“When I first started there were no state 14s or 16s,” White said.

“Now there’s nationals, and under-12s.”

“There’s all these tournaments for our kids to go to.”

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