A Life In Sport

By Jordan Bailey

For Ian Hawke, the 1960’s are a vivid tapestry of personal triumphs and milestones. Growing up in a time of immense change, Ian’s journey was defined by his passion for football and a series of significant accomplishments that would shape his life going forward. Winning three premierships, coaching a junior side to a Grand Final victory, securing his first job, and buying his first car are just a few highlights of this golden decade. In an era where the world was undergoing seismic changes, Ian found his footing- both literally and figuratively- on the football field, marking the beginning of a journey that would span over five decades.

Ask Ian about his favourite decade, and without hesitation, he’ll take you back to the 1960’s. It’s not just the music or the culture that defines the era for him, but a series of personal milestones that laid the foundation for his future. During this decade, Ian’s life revolved around the exhilarating world of football, a sport that would become a lifelong passion. Winning three premierships with his team remains one of Ian’s most cherished accomplishments. “Played three grand finals at Mayne Tigers. ’61, ’62 and ’63. Undefeated in ’61 and ’62. Won again in ‘63”, he recalls. These wins were a testament to the hard work and dedication he and his team put in, as well as the camaraderie that all the players shared. Beyond his on-field exploits, Ian also found both satisfaction and success in coaching. Leading a junior side to victory in 1964 was a different kind of triumph, one that allowed him to mentor young players and instil in them the values of teamwork and perseverance, along with a shared love of the game. Off the football field, Ian recalls securing his first job and buying his first car, granting him more personal freedoms as well as adult authority and responsibility. For Ian, the 1960’s were not just a decade of personal growth but a time where football became the cornerstone of his legacy.

While football dominated Ian’s early life, his interest extended beyond the footy field to the world of Speedway racing. The high-speed pursuit was more than just a hobby, it was a passion that took Ian on adventures across Australia and New Zealand. Ian’s involvement in Speedway racing began when he became a mechanic for John Titman, a legendary figure in the racing world who won the Australian title and eight Queensland titles. Ian would work with Titman for almost all his Australian races. Their adventures didn’t stop at the Australian borders, travelling to New Zealand to compete in the circuit there. These journeys formed the basis of a lifelong friendship, continuing to this day. “We’d race on Friday night, then drive to Sydney to race there Saturday night. We’d come back different ways, depending on where the races were,” Ian adds. As the years went by, Ian’s involvement in Speedway racing naturally waned, but the memories and experiences from those days remain vivid.

One of Ian’s crowning achievements is his association with the Brisbane Lions. Starting as a volunteer, he would pitch in for a decade before being offered a full-time position in 2000. His roles varied from looking after football equipment to helping young players adjust to the team environment. One particularly touching story is of him helping a young man who’d moved from Tasmania to join the Lions,

” I had one of the young kids come up here, he got drafted here and he wasn’t fitting in, so he moved into my place and lived with me for two years,” Ian recalls.

Another memory that Ian recalls with fondness is a bit more amusing. Ian recalls the day that Jonathan Brown, a player at the club, called him in a panic. “He said what’s cool Ian, can you come around, there’s a snake in the wardrobe.” Jonathan wanted the reptile removed before his partner, who was afraid of snakes, would come to their new house for the first time. Armed with a broom, Ian and Jonathan managed to capture the snake. But the adventure didn’t end there. “He said, oh, we gotta have a bit of fun with it first,” Ian explains. They took the snake to Craig Lambert’s house, where the sight of the reptile sent Lambert and his family into a panic. “He bolts and he’s standing on top of the dining room table,”he says.

They would continue the prank at few other houses, getting the same reaction each time, before finally releasing the snake safely by the river.

Retiring in 2016 after his long tenure with the Lion’s, Ian’s love for the game and dedication to the club were evident, leaving a lasting legacy, being awarded life membership with both the Lion’s, for his long and valued service, and the Mayne AFL, where he is soon to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. He continues to receive free tickets to every home game, which he attends whenever he can.

Now at 78, Ian enjoys a quieter life, filled with family activities and occasional travel. Having had two children and five grandchildren, Ian often spends weekends watching his grandkids sports events, and while none have taken to football, preferring hockey and soccer, Ian is just as supportive and proud. Ian’s story is a vibrant example of how dedication and passion can lead to a fulfilling and impactful life. From his early days in the 1960’s to his cherished role with the Brisbane Lions, Ian’s journey is one of triumph, commitment, and joy.

A Life in Motion

By Jordan Bailey

Shirley Wittleton’s story is a vivid tale of resilience and passion. A spirited grandmother living in Ballina, New South Wales, Shirley’s story is filled with vigorous sports, committed caregiving, and loving family adventures. As a young woman she excelled in sports and fitness, enjoying the thrill of the competition and the joy of shared experiences with her family. Later, she dedicated herself to a career in aged care, driven by a desire to help those unable to help themselves. Throughout her life, Shirley has needed to adapt to the passing of time- from the bustling social scenes and physical activity of her youth to serene swims and gentle walks in her golden years. Her journey is not just a personal story but a testament to her incredible adaptability and inner strength.

Shirley’s life has always been marked by vitality and vigour; a trait vividly displayed in her younger days before family responsibilities would shift her focus. She cherished her evenings at Lismore City Hall, where live bands would fill the venue with music that she and her friends could lose themselves in. They would often preface these evenings by going to local cafés, where Shirley would enjoy a nice milkshake. Alongside these lively social outings, Shirley revelled in bicycle rides across Ballina with her group of friends, exploring every corner of the town until dusk would signal her need to be home. She also had a lifelong love of the ocean and would frequently spend her days swimming at the beach.

This spirit of adventure would carry into her later years when Shirley passionately engaged in sports of all kinds, but particularly squash. She thrived on the competition, especially enjoying mixed gender events, where she could beat male opponents, finding great satisfaction in her victories. Her children, frequently by her side at the courts, absorbed her enthusiasm for physical activity. They too would adopt active lifestyles, involving swimming, cycling and various sports. She would also share her love of the ocean with them, with many afternoons and weekends spent in the cool water of the nearby beaches. Together, they relished beach outings and hikes, exploring nature and enjoying the physical engagement. Family outings were an essential part of Shirley’s life. These adventures, done on a budget, were rich in experiences. The family would often take trips to Sydney, exploring new beaches and the lively city, fostering a sense of closeness that Shirley cherished.

As a young girl, Shirley Wittleton dreamed of being a nurse. Caring for her chronically ill mother as well as her younger brother for much of her teenage years planted a desire in her to help others. Unfortunately, these dreams needed to be set aside, initially to take care of her childhood home and then later due to her marriage and having children at a young age. With her oldest being born at nineteen, she would have three children by the age of twenty-three. However, fortune would smile on her. In her thirties, with her children now at school, Shirley heard about a job available to work with aged care dementia patients. She didn’t know much about much about dementia. She didn’t have much in the way of qualifications or experience. What she did have was a passion for helping others and confidence. So, she walked in, told the boss that she could do it, and walked out with the job. Shirley would continue to work with aged care and dementia patients for the rest of her professional career, pursuing her pushed aside education and earning her qualifications while on the job. Her time there would coincide with one of the first ever government grants to give people with dementia an alternative to a nursing home, allowing for their more specialised needs to be met. Looking back, Shirley recalls how difficult it was working with these patients and seeing the toll that their condition could take on them and the people who loved them, but she also remembers how rewarding it was helping them. Working with them is among the things she is most proud of in her life.

Recently, Shirley was forced to say goodbye to her younger brother, Ray. Having struggled with Huntington’s Disease, a rare brain disorder that causes cognitive and physical decline, for years, he made the choice to end his life with dignity. At Hornsby Hospital earlier this year, he underwent Voluntary Assisted Dying (VAD) after saying goodbye to all the most important people in his life. Shirley says that she found it amazing he was allowed to choose, as he was the first person at Hornsby that had undergone the process.

Now at the age of seventy-four, Shirley’s life has slowed down considerably. Diagnosed with osteoarthritis at forty, her physical activities transitioned from competitive sports and hikes to gentle walks, though her love of the water and swimming persists, with morning often finding her either walking along the beach or swimming in the pool. While the scale may have changed, she remains a very physically active person, especially after two joint replacements that she says, while painful, greatly increased her quality of life. Professionally, Shirley retired after more than thirty years working within hostels and nursing homes. Even after retiring, she would continue to volunteer in hostels, assisting the Diversional Therapists by taking residents out for walks and reading to them. As she looks to the future, Shirley has plans- perhaps quieter than the adventures of her youth but no less filled with anticipation. She plans to travel across Australia soon with a close friend, exploring new places and seeking new experiences. She takes her caring spirit and pours it into watching over her grandchildren, helping them to learn and grow.

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