Honour for deaf hockey stalwart

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By Toni Williams

Playing hockey with a skilled, deaf player taught some of Tinwald Hockey Club’s ol’ boys a thing or two…not least how to communicate with a passionate deaf team mate racing up the field, ball on stick, oblivious to the referee’s whistle.

There were a few miscommunications – among players and with referees – but it was mostly good times and special memories which were celebrated when Robin Breakwell was made a life member of the Tinwald Hockey Club last week.

Breakwell, who is deaf and lip reads, has been playing for the club since he was around 16, turning up at weekends to play.

He was brandishing a hockey stick from young; he was introduced to game by his mother, who played for Methven.

But he fine-tuned his game at the former Sumner School for the Deaf, (now van Asch Deaf Education), where he was schooled.

Now, at 69, he’s still playing hockey and is showing no sign of giving up.

It’s an important part of his life, he said.

He socialised with others and he really enjoyed the game.

Tinwald Hockey Club president Murray Bonnington presented a surprised Breakwell with a plaque at a social function attended by Breakwell’s children; Debbie (of Brisbane) and Peter (of Ashburton) and granddaughter Chloe (also of Ashburton) and past and present club players.

He said the life membership recognised Breakwell’s “significant period of years of continual involvement as a hockey player in the Tinwald Hockey Club”.

Some of Breakwell’s former team mates from the 1960s and 70s were also on hand to tell a couple of yarns about his on field antics, hockey skills and to congratulate him on an achievement “not given to everyone”.

Bonnington described Breakwell as a valued and active member of the hockey community, both at club level, as Mid Canterbury representative and in Masters Hockey for Canterbury at Masters National Tournaments. Some of the players in these tournaments were people Breakwell knew from hockey in his school days.

“Robin has been involved as a player with the Tinwald Hockey Club for more than 50 years and has only missed one hockey season,” Bonnington said. It was the year he left the district for Te Anau but he missed hockey and returned the following season.

“(Robin) is a reliable and dedicated stalwart (of the club),” Mr Bonnington said.

Over the years, Breakwell has been coached by Don Hefford, Sid Swift and numerous player coaches.

And has seen club practices move from grounds where The Plains Museum now sits, to grounds at the former Tinwald Workingmen’s Club (now a new housing area), to the new hockey turf in the Ashburton Domain.

“Robin played representative senior ockey for the Ashburton Hockey Association in some of the Ian Smith Tournaments,” Bonnington said.

“In later years he has continued to play senior reserve (first grade) for Tinwald and is still playing as well as Masters Hockey for Ashburton.”