Sunday, June 23, 2024

Masters Talk: from wrestling champion to hockey veteran

Mark McElligott chats with Stephen Sawyers, Queensland, Southern Cross and Australian forward about his hockey experiences 

Stephen was a four-time national wrestling champion and also represented Australia in freestyle wrestling when he was younger. His wife Michelle is also no stranger to high performance sport, having been both a player and later manager of the Australian women’s football team, the Matildas. 

Stephen has come back from injury and illness in the last two years to be selected in the Australian Masters over-65s team for Tokyo in October. 

Name: Stephen Sawyers 

Nickname: Bones 

What city or town do you live in: Ipswich, just south of Brisbane in Queensland. 

When did you start playing hockey: When I was 6, so in 1962. 

Where: in Ipswich, with the Churchill State School team. 

Why: I was too small to play footy! 

When did you first play masters: When I was 40, so 1996.  

Where: Ipswich again. 

Steve with World Cup medals

Do you play for your state or just club hockey: State and club. I played with the Ipswich club as a junior through to first grade at 17 years until I started wrestling and played with Kedron-Wavell in Brisbane more than 20 years. In wrestling, I was Australian champion in 1984 and qualified for the Olympics but other events took our place so only three wrestlers went and I missed out! In 1985 though I finished sixth in the World Cup for wrestling in the USA. 

Current national championship age group: Over 65’s – with Queensland, and looking forward to Nationals this year.  It will have been three years since we last played nationals due to Covid restrictions. 

Are you still playing grade: Yes, Div 4 and 5 opens. 

What attracted you to masters hockey: To keep in the sport. 

Have you been selected to play for your national masters team? Yes, a few times.  The first was in 2003, also played World Cup for the 55s Aussie team in the 2014 World Cup in Netherlands winning a bronze medal and then a silver medal with the Aussie 60s in Newcastle in Australia in 2016.  I’ve been chosen in the Aussie 65s team for World Cup in Tokyo later this year.  

Where has playing at national level taken you to: All over the world; America, New Zealand, The Netherlands, Belgium. 

Best memories: First game playing for Australia in the North American tour in 2003, and winning the Australian title with Queensland in Wollongong in 2005, beating WA country in the final. 

Worst moment: Injuring my knee at the Euro championship around 2018. It kept me out of the game for two years.  I had surgery last year and have got back in to it again. 

Steve Sawyers playing for Queensland state over 65s titles

Best thing about masters hockey: Meeting like minded hockey players from all around the world. 

Why do you keep playing: Mental and physical well-being, and to continually catch up with mates around Australia. 

Toughest thing about the impact of COVID: For me, I was very fortunate that it was a blessing in disguise. I was in for knee and heart surgery, and Covid gave me time to recover for this year’s tour to Japan. 

Current playing activity: Two games a week masters and open grades. 

Current goals: To play well at the world cup in October. 

What are you looking forward to: Many more years of hockey. 

Favourite quote: Go hard or go home. 

READ MORE in our My Life in Hockey series

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