stories, photos, anecdotes….. sharing the past
With the upcoming Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, the Parkes Library history blog will focus on Olympians from the Parkes Shire. Each post will provide a snapshot of the sportsmen and sportswomen who have worn the green and gold and called the Parkes Shire home at some point of their lives. Stephen Davies, the first Parkes Shire resident to compete at three consecutive Olympics Games, is a hockey player well-known to many Shire residents past and present.
Stephen Davies is the son of John and Brenda Davies. When Stephen was born on January 2, 1969 the Parkes Champion Post was celebrating Parkes’ undefeated run in cricket’s Grinsted Cup as well as the dominance of Parkes swimmers (Parkes Champion Post Friday January 3, 1969 page 8). Fiat were releasing their new ‘Mighty’ range of tractors at Broderick Machinery. Gold had just been found at Cadia, Orange and the Telescope Visitors Centre was soon to open (Parkes Champion Post Monday January 6, 1969 page 1). However probably more significant to the local hockey fraternity was the fact that the Parkes Hockey Association won the Rothwell Shield – the shield had previously only been won by Sydney and Newcastle clubs (Parkes Champion Post Monday January 6, 1969 page 5). Local author, Margaret Dwyer, mentions the importance of winning the Rothwell Shield, describing it as the symbol of NSW hockey excellence (Dwyer, 2014 p192)
ParkesHistory was fortunate to be able to interview John “Joe” Davies, father of triple Olympian Stephen Davies. John revealed that Stephen was born into a sport loving family. Both of Stephen’s parents, John and Brenda, were accomplished sports stars in their own right. While both of them also played hockey, John was keen on baseball and cricket too. Brenda excelled at softball, cricket as well as hockey.
John proudly recalls that Stephen was proof that the structured coaching system employed by Hockey Australia worked. Stephen represented NSW at all levels from under 12 to seniors, and represented Australia at U21 level and senior level. But before Olympic glory and national honours came his way, Stephen grew up in Parkes – playing whatever sport he could while also attending Middleton Public School and later Parkes High School.
“Stephen performed well at school but more so in the sporting side of things. He enjoyed his time at both Middleton Public School and Parkes High School. Any sport he would have a go out – rugby league, cricket, baseball, soccer and athletics.”
However hockey was Stephen’s first love and when, at the age of 13 or 14, he had to choose which sport to specialise in, he chose hockey. Stephen played most of his Parkes club hockey for the Middleton club. In his teens, Stephen began asking his parents if he could play “A” grade. While both Davies parents believed Stephen too young to play top club level, his constant begging meant that John eventually said yes provided that he play for the Marist club whom John was player/coach. This way John could keep an eye on the young prodigy.
By the mid-80s, Stephen was being noticed by some of the top coaches in state hockey. One of them approached John asking whether Stephen would consider joining the Australian Institute of Sport program in Perth.
“That was the planting of the seed,” commented John.
At the time Stephen decided to head to Sydney to play for one of the top clubs in the league, Moorebank Liverpool District Hockey Club. While Stephen’s talent was apparent – helping the club to win the Sydney first grade premiership with two goals in the grand final – he was homesick as it was the first time he had lived away from home. Unable to find long-term employment, John and Brenda supported Stephen when he was unable to find casual labouring jobs.
With NSW Open selectors overlooking him, Stephen was unsure what else he could do to impress them. Fortunately, he received an official offer to join the AIS. Stephen quickly accepted. This would mean leaving his home state and basing himself in Perth – where most elite hockey players in Australia are based. It turned out to be the best decision Stephen made both sporting and personally.
While Stephen didn’t have the same Spartan conditions that budding Olympians – such as Ted McGlynn, Rex Aubrey and Jim Bailey – experienced, he did find it difficult at first. Stephen’s dad recalls times that Stephen felt homesick and out of place living in dormitory style accommodation – although today’s hockey athletes have far better facilities. It was also nigh impossible to maintain an occupation whilst furthering his hockey career. Many employers were reluctant to take on someone whose primary focus was trying to further their sporting career – regular interstate and overseas travel meant that employers did not want to give Stephen a chance. In addition, there was a bias against Stephen’s chosen sport.
“Hockey has never been given a decent go by the media,” states John Davies. “OK, the Parkes Champion Post gives decent coverage but they are the rare exception. Australian media don’t think of hockey as a fair dinkum sport. Even some of Stephen’s family tried to convince him to play another sport other than hockey!”
Report on Mens Hockey Gold Medal Match between Germany and Kookaburras. Pre-tournament favourites Germany went on to create history, while Australia were so close. In the pool matches, Australia had drawn with Germany. The final was the only match the Kookaburras lost at the Barcelona Olympics. Source: LA Times 9 August 1992
John revealed that Stephen survived financially thanks to companies that supported hockey at the time. The young Davies was grateful to companies that supported him throughout his career, especially Gryphon and Puma. Gryphon supported Stephen with equipment (sticks and bags) plus some sponsorship money while Puma were the national team’s footwear sponsor providing the Kookaburras with footwear.
Stephen may have been absent from Parkes, but this didn’t mean that his home shire forgot about him. In an print out that John Davies shared with ParkesHistory from a now dead link from the Australian Hockey Association’s Get News website (http:www.hockeyaustralia.org.au/news/getNews.cfm?Key=221) the strong relationship between Stephen and the Parkes Shire is exemplified:
“I love Parkes and I still call it home,” declares Davies, who has resided in Perth for the last 10 years due to commitments with hockey.
The support of the Parkes community has been outstanding throughout Davies’ career. The best example of the esteem in which the local-bred athlete is held is their efforts of 1992. The community rallied to help raise funds to assist the young athlete as he returned from his first Olympics (Barcelona) in 1992, with a target of $10,000 stated. The high regard for Davies in the local area was far from anticipated and within just two weeks, over $24,000 had been raised.
Excerpt from printout in the scrapbook belonging to John and Brenda Davies
While Stephen enjoyed club hockey in Perth and being part of a professional environment that allowed him to focus on improving his hockey, he missed home.
“He’s been in Perth ever since,” explains John. “He visits home every now and then. We had a great time at his testimonial. But he met his wife there and they have children so he’s settled in the west.”
Stephen announced his retirement after the Sydney 2000 Olympics. He was engaged to Keran Hawkes (sister of triple gold medallist hockey player Rechelle Hawkes) and realised that there was more to life than just the great game of hockey.
“Plus, his body was telling him it was time. Stephen played most of the Sydney Olympics on painkillers,” his father explained.
While playing the game he loved was about to become a memory, Stephen’s involvement with hockey hasn’t finished. He coaches clubs and juniors in Western Australia and will be going to Rio Olympics as part of the staff to the Hockeyroos. In the past he has been an assistant coach and a consultative coach. Davies was thanked personally by Olympic gold medalist and dual World Champion, Rob Hammond, when Hammond announced his retirement from international hockey:
I have been in the Australian Institute of Sport / Hockey Australia High Performance Program for 16 years and without the support and guidance of its coaches, strength and conditioners, psychologists and staff I would never have achieved such a long and successful career. There are many others that I would like to thank within the hockey community… Stephen Davies for his mentorship…West, L. (2014, June 20). Rob Hammond retires. Retrieved July 13, 2016, from http://www.hockey.org.au/News/rob-hammond-retires
Sports Reference website describes the relationship between hockey and Spain in 1992 as well as the major results:
Field hockey is not a major sport in Spain, but it is in the Catalonian town of Terrassa, about 30 km from Barcelona. This town, which hosted the 1992 field hockey events, had been the chief supplier of Spanish hockey Olympians. The Spanish men couldn’t impress in front of their home crowd, however, and failed to make the semi-finals following a 6-1 trouncing by Pakistan. Pakistan also beat one of the pre-tournament favorites, the reigning World Champions from the Netherlands. In the other pool, the favored Germans and Australians advanced to the next round.
Both semi-finals were closely fought, with Germany prevailing over Pakistan after extra time, and Australia beating the Dutch 3-2. It was the third straight Olympic final for the Germans, who had lost to Pakistan in 1984 and Britain in 1988. Man of the match would become Michael Hilgers, who scored twice. Australia only got in a consolation goal shortly before the final whistle. German player Andreas Keller now equalled his father’s performance, as Carsten Keller had been on the victorious West German team of 1972. Carsten’s father, too, had been an Olympic finalist as Erwin Keller played in the 1936 game, losing to India.
The Pakistani won their bronze medal by scoring four goals against the Netherlands in less than fifteen minutes, turning around the score from 0-2 to 4-3
Source: Sports Reference website
List of Kookaburras who have played more than 200 games for the green and gold. Stephen Davies is currently sixth with 274 appearances and 140 goals. Source: Hockey Australia website
Official Result card of Stephen Davies and Australia’s Silver Medal match against Germany at 1992 Barcelona Olympics. Source: Fédération Internationale de Hockey sur Gazon (FIH) Tournament Manager System
Davies was still remembered fondly within the Parkes Shire and a huge crowd gathered for his testimonial match at the Stephen Davies Field in Parkes. An Australian All-stars team was selected by Stephen to play against his home town side. The score finished 5-4 although Parkes were leading 4-3 until Davies showcased his goal poaching skills to score the final two goals. The match was followed by a testimonial dinner, which had sold out weeks before.
The following YouTube clips have been converted from VHS tapes that were discovered in the Family & Local History resource room of Parkes Library. These clips have been edited to highlight Stephen Davies’ achievements. The footage includes local television news reports of Stephen Davies’ testimonial match – including interviews with former Parkes hockey players Len Gosper, Bob Barter, Clifford Field and then Tourism Manager Michael Greenwood OAM – and selected goals from Stephen Davies’ career, including 1990 Champions Trophy and the Sydney 2000 Olympics. The last YouTube clip is an advertisement that IBM made in the leap up to the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. It featured Stephen as well as many locals and was filmed in Parkes. Town crier Tim Keith is riding the horse and it explains that Parkes is known for two things – the radio telescope and Stephen Davies. The advertisement shows its age, nowadays many people would comment that Parkes is known for Elvis Festival and “The Dish” (rather than radio telescope) as well as Stephen Davies.
On Friday October 14th, 2016 Hockey Australia announced that Stephen Davies would be one of eight new inductees into the Hall of Fame. Stephen will be the 38th inductee into the illustrious Hockey Australia Hall of Fame, two weeks prior to fellow former Parkes Shire resident, Mariah Williams, representing Australia in the Junior World Cup in Chile. Stephen’s sister-in-law, Rechelle Hawkes, is being presented with the new ‘Legend’ status. Source: http://www.hockey.org.au/News/hockey-australia-hall-of-fame
Parkes Shire Library would like to thank the following people and organisations for their assistance in making this post possible:
If you have stories or memories that you are willing to share about Stephen Davies or any of the other Olympians of the Parkes Shire , please contact Parkes Shire Library via firstname.lastname@example.org so that they can be shared and kept for posterity on this blog. Alternatively you may leave comments on this page.
REFERENCE LIST (in order of appearance in above article)