Anne Coleman nurtured and helped shape the careers of countless young budding cricketers over the years, none more so than her daughter Leonie.
The long-time cricket coach passed away last week, and is being remembered as an incredible woman who was cherished by many in the cricket community and the wider community.
“Mum meant everything to me and so many others and will leave a massive hole in all our hearts,” Leonie said.
Leonie is the youngest sibling of one of Tamworth’s most prominent sporting families, along with elder brothers Darren, who is deceased, and Craig. Both brothers were pretty handy cricketers and league players.
Leonie, a former Australian wicketkeeper, said she would never have achieved what she did if it wasn’t for “mum's time, energy and commitment”. “She was the biggest influence on my career,” Leonie said.
She recalled her mother hitting balls to her in the backyard of their Moonbi home when she was about five “because I wanted to be a wicketkeeper”.
Christened Elizabeth Anne, cricket was a long way from Coleman’s early sporting vocation.
She grew up around horses and broke in horses as a teenager, before later becoming one of the first female jockeys in Tamworth.
“Then she met Dad (Ian). He played cricket and so she got into cricket,” Leonie said.
She played in the local women’s competition before making the transition to coaching, igniting a passion that would endure the rest of her life.
She coached cricket teams at Moonbi Public School, which Leonie attended, up until recently. The school’s oval is named after her.
Coleman also coached Tamworth junior representative sides for many years, and was a passionate advocate for getting more girls participating in cricket.
“She just nurtured a generation and a half of cricketers of varying abilities,” said former NSW Country wicketkeeper batsmen Terry Browne.
He got to know Coleman best during his time as principal at Moonbi Public School. When he arrived at the school in 2002 she had been coaching there for many years. “I thought with her there, there was a great resource and there was no need for me to coach,” he said.
He said she just had that “unique skill”.
“As a coach she understood the game and she had a manor about her where she was able to tell young people exactly what they should be doing without ever upsetting anybody,” Browne said.
Coleman also served as president of Bendemeer Rugby League Club for a year, and was a long-time supporter of the club and Group 4.
“She was a wonderful person,” said former Bendemeer player and committee member Paul Hyson. “She gave everything towards sport, whether it be football or cricket.”
Hyson played for the Mountain Men alongside Darren and Craig, and spent a fair bit of time at the Coleman household. “She was a fantastic role model for everyone in the sport,” he said.
Coleman will be farewelled at a graveside service at Moonbi cemetery at 11am on Monday.