Chrissy Hawker: Dedicated umpire, player, administrator

COUNCIL DAYS: Chrissy Hawker is a former Glenelg Shire Council Councillor. Picture: Supplied
COUNCIL DAYS: Chrissy Hawker is a former Glenelg Shire Council Councillor. Picture: Supplied

Chrissy, let's go back to your football umpiring days. What are your memories of umpiring football?

It would be 38 years ago when I umpired a juniors game between North Portland and South Portland.

My brother Kevin was an umpire at time and the local umpires boss Bill Bryant came around to home and said they were short of umpires.

He asked if I was interested in umpiring and I said I would have a go.

Bill gave me a rule book and I went out the front of our house with my dad Jack and started bouncing the ball on the street.

I knew one of the first things the players would judge me on was how high I bounced the ball in the centre square.

I can still remember walking into the change rooms before my first game to check the players boots and if they had earrings and the young lads were wolf-whistling after the game the boys from North Portland gave me a clap.

I only umpired for the one year because I had problems with my right achilles' tendon.

Did the issue with your right achilles give you many problems during your sporting career?

Yes. I played junior netball with Portland before going out to play at Tyrendarra and Heathmere and I often had issues with my achilles.

I went on to coach junior netball and in the primary school. My mum played a lot of netball and so did my sister Frances. I loved playing sport.

I played competition basketball in Portland, squash and tennis.

Bruce Elijah, who is well known in Portland, taught me how to play the game and he went on to coach my three children.

The only sport which I never liked was swimming. I really struggled with swimming.

Chrissy, during your netball career did you play in any premiership sides?

I never played in any senior netball premiership sides but I did play in a few junior ones.

Netball was a lot more fun to play back in my era then it is today.

The ladies really take the netball seriously today. It's a really popular sport.

The South West District Football Netball League has seven grades and it keeps on growing when I played there was only three grades.

I've got no doubt netball is the backbone of footy competitions across the state.

Football and netball clubs help keep families and friends together in country towns.

They are also a great social outlet for people. The other big part in the clubs is volunteers.

There would be no country clubs, no footy, no netball without the volunteers.

Sadly the people in Melbourne who make decisions relating to local footy and netball don't understand how much time the volunteers devote to the sport and their clubs.

How many years were you involved in administration in the South West District Football Netball League?

I was there for 17 years as the operations manager. I left in 2017.

I saw the league grow a lot in my time in administration. I was asked to join the administration in 2000.

The league was in trouble but after a lot of hard work by officials things started to turn around.

There were eight clubs in the South West District Football Netball League plus the local umpires.

We had about 40 umpires on our books but sadly that number has decreased over the last few years.

Chrissy, you have undoubtedly watched the happenings at the AFL Western District Regional Administration Centre which controls local footy and netball across the area. What's your spin on how it's travelling?

I just feel sorry for clubs in the local leagues. I was invited to attend a meeting in Ballarat in early 2018 about the future direction for local footy.

There were two options put on the table. The first related to clubs getting partial assistance from the hub. The other was the hub would take over.

I firmly believe the clubs and local leagues should have asked for partial assistance but they went the other way.

Now the local clubs face increases in fees and other costs. It's just a shame. I'm not a fan of the new system that local clubs and leagues are involved in.

We used to have think tanks between the various leagues each three months and everyone would have an input, those days are gone now.

I think the on-going costs of the new administration is going to have a massive impact on the clubs and the leagues.

With the coronavirus pandemic and no local footy or netball I'm just hoping that the local clubs are working behind the scenes planning for their futures.

I'm worried going forward that many clubs will struggle to survive in very tough times.

I still help some clubs across the region in relation to OHS policies and believe they are worried what the future brings for the local footy and netball.

Chrissy, back in 2017, you became a councillor in the Glenelg Shire. What was your reason for becoming a councillor?

I've lived in the area all my life and I wanted to just give something back to the region. I'm a sort of hands-on person. I've really enjoyed my time as a councillor. I would like to think as a council we're getting things done around the region. We live in a wonderful part of the world and should appreciate it each day.

Under the Auld Pump appears in The Standard every Wednesday.

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