FEATURE: The Australian Men’s Masters Championships as seen through the ‘eyes’ of Mick Lever

Mick Lever

It would not be an Australian masters hockey event without seeing the smiling face of Mick Lever. Smiling because his passion for the game and dedication to masters hockey shines. He serves our sport with commitment, using his administrative skills to make things happen behind the scenes. Go Hockey News caught up with Mick and asked if he would give a synopsis of this year’s men’s masters championships through his role and his perspective of masters hockey overall.

What was your role in this year’s event?

  • Umpire Manager

How long have you been involved in administration of Masters Hockey? Why do you like doing it? What is the hardest part about your role?

  • I have been involved with Australian Masters Hockey as the Umpire Manager since 2009. That year the National Championships were held in Footscray and Altona Victoria. I took on the role from Jaffa Hollis who was retiring after well over a decade in charge. I had already attended seven national championships as an umpire prior to that so I guess someone thought I was the appropriate fit for what the role required. I can’t remember when I started getting involved with administration with QLD Men’s Masters but it sort of morphed from umpiring at the state championships each year, helping Jaffa allocate umpires to helping communicate to our masters community through our website and facebook.
  • I love the challenge that is presented. Imagine bringing 9 teams from across the country for an open age national championships and then multiplying that by 9! Effectively it is 14 tournaments in one. Add to the mix compressing it into a 16-day schedule…now that is a challenge! I like to think of the role as helping to facilitate the best experience possible for all the participants. Umpiring is not just about enforcing the rules on the field, it is also about supporting the tournament and enhancing the experience.

You have to love what you do and it is made so much easier when you get to know everyone involved both on and off the field. The team of umpires we have had varies year to year but I tip my hat to those that give up their time to umpire 2 maybe 3 games a day. This year across 16 days I think it worked out that the guys umpired about 22-24 games each!!! The commitment these guys put in to do this and do it to the best of their abilities is what keeps me focussed…I just fill in the blanks and hopefully get the right balance for the tournament. The best part outside of my role is the relaxed atmosphere that we have where you can hang out with anyone and everyone, have a drink and just laugh about what was or what could have been…that makes it why I keep coming back.

  • The hardest part of the role is appointing umpires. The numbers are crazy. There are 80 teams, 283 matches at 2 venues. In 15 days I appointed umpires 600 times! Add the human factors of fitness, fatigue and competencies…yep hands down the hardest part of the role.

How many teams participated and is this the biggest? How does this compare to years gone by?

  • 80 teams were in attendance this year. 2017 in Hobart was the most we have seen with 87 teams. It seems to have levelled out over the past few years with about 80 teams consistently.

Was the event successful overall? Why?

  • Who knows what is in store for the future but this is a pretty good number and contributes to a great atmosphere ably supported by two great regional centres. Sure you will get some negatives but what would Australia’s biggest Hockey tournament be without room for improvement. I think what made it successful was the people who behind the scenes did not stop for months on end before you or I even booked our holidays (well I am booked out every year at this time but you know what I mean). The same people that I saw every day at the grounds every morning well before I got there and still going strong well after I left, they are what I measure the success of the tournament against. You have that handful of people in your association…success is easy to achieve.

What was your feedback from the players about the event?

  • Seeing players genuinely acknowledging the umpires after a match and mates who always have a bit to say about umpires telling you that they enjoyed playing is always pleasing.

The general feel I got was that everyone involved came away wanting more…probably everyone’s legs were gone but next year in Bunbury and Busselton was what everyone was looking forward to.

What were the best highlights of the event that you encountered?

  • Watching every bit of hockey is a highlight for me. I got the bug for masters when I was in my early 20’s. The standout moment for me was watching the 75’s go toe-to-toe in a shootout to decide the 3rd and 4th Watching the legends of our game with 8 seconds having a crack was pretty inspiring and to see Queensland’s Ken Taylor seal the match with a magical ‘scoop’ over the GK…perfection! If you are a facebook user then you can click on the following link via your facebook page to watch this famous shootout. Ken Taylor is the last shooter. https://www.facebook.com/australianmastershockey/videos/268815120415241/

Masters umpires give to charity (Photo: Mike Anderson)

  • Our team of umpires donating money that we raised from each other to our farmers and also to a charity supporting one of the local community families with a child taking on one of life’s tougher challenges. We donate all our ‘fines’ each year to support the local community as best we can. Who knows maybe teams in years to come will jump on board and donate some or all of the team fines and give back to the community.

What are your thoughts about the future of Masters hockey?

  • Masters Hockey should be that calendar event that all players and officials can aspire to be involved in. As can be seen at any masters tournament, age is just a number. Whether you are 35 or 85, you play with the same intensity, the same hunger to win, but the minute the fourth quarter ends…well we are all mates again and it is time to head on up to the tent and “rehydrate”. The atmosphere that we experience year in year out supports and enhances why we look forward to returning. Looking ahead the number of participants will always be measured by that atmosphere. We need to still keep the Master’s identity and uniqueness and seeing 80+ teams at future tournaments is not unreasonable. Without it we will just be another tournament on the national calendar.

What was your funniest moment over the event?

  • I wouldn’t call it the funniest moment, others do, but I was handing over the Best player award to be presented to Frosty (Phil Frost- Victoria) during the presentation and having the bottom of the trophy completely drop out the bottom and roll away…thankfully Frosty already has a few of them that aren’t damaged!

Were there any sad moments?

  • For me it was hearing that although our very experienced medical officer gave advice to a player that they delayed taking on board that advice. It does not matter what age we are, you need to think about more than just the next game. I always say to people, there is more to life than hockey…it will always be there. Not a good moment when you put it into perspective.

How do you believe we can grow Masters Hockey and use it to grow hockey in general?

  • By enjoying our game and showing respect to our teammates, opposition, officials and spectators. Everyone is at hockey for the same reason to enjoy themselves. Who comes along to our game? Family and friends! Your children, your opposition teams children. If we continue to take it to our regional associations we will not only continue developing the atmosphere and uniqueness that is our tournament but we will show our Lismore’s, our Ballina’s that Hockey is a family sport that belongs in your backyard.

Thank you Mick. Thank you masters umpires.

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