Torquay Hockey Club president Andrew Crowley.

Crowley builds something beautiful

April 16, 2020 BY

IN 2010, Andrew Crowley was on a tennis court in Bellbrae coaching a small group of children with little or no hockey playing experience. It was something he did for the love of the game and the love of his daughters, who were among the children learning the sport.

Andrew was not to know that this humble beginning would sprout a multi-premiership winning team with one of the largest and most diverse player bases in the season, but he would nevertheless be part of every step in Torquay Tornadoes Hockey Club’s remarkable growth.

Andrew started the club with Chris Thompson, as both had young families and wanted to give them a chance to get into the sport, and the area was lacking a local hockey club.

While the club has evolved significantly over the past decade, Andrew said they have looked to keep it family-orientated.

“We’ve built the club around families. Hockey’s a family sort of sport. We’ve had some amazing people come to our club through family connections who have added to it and made it the sustainable club it is.”

The initial teams were largely made up of Andrew’s daughters and their school friends.

Chris Thompson’s children were younger, and so, along with the friends they would train, they were gradually introduced to the game without being entered in any official competition.

Chris says he and Andrew turned out to be a good match for each other as co-founders.

“We work well together because we have different backgrounds. He really understood the sporting space and what needed to be done to secure grants, sponsorship, facilities and all those things you really need to run a club. Whereas I had more of a business background and also had experience at previous clubs making sure we had structures in place financially and system-wise to ensure the club function as well.”

Andrew’s roles as manager of sport and recreation at Deakin University and a member of G21’s Sport and Recreation Pillar have aided him in growing the club.

In just a few short years, the club went from only featuring in the Under 13 division, to having as junior sides in every age bracket of the Geelong Hockey Association, as well as senior men’s and women’s teams too.

Club secretary and Under 10 coach Georgina Sayer said Andrew had been central to this growth.

“Andrew has been and continues to be someone who really holds the club together.

“He does recruitment, he’s president, he helps with umpire co-ordination, and he’s involved in helping out the juniors and the junior coaches as well as playing, so he really is one of the driving forces behind the club.”

Andrew has looked to not only grow the club but also foster an inclusive ethos.

He said it had always been important for the club to cater for people of all age, gender and abilities.

“One of our excellent strengths is that we have a mixed junior program. So all of the junior hockey is played in mixed sides, and that’s really good for both the girls and the boys.

“We have a lot of things that we do for the girls in the club. We’re part of the This Girl Can campaign. We also have a strong leadership team making sure that they get equal game time, and that really helps strengthen the club, like last year’s Under 17 grand finals team – we had eight girls playing, which was fantastic.”

The club’s first senior premiership was won in 2013 by their B Grade women’s team. Their second was delivered three years later by their A Grade women’s side.

Chris Thompson said Andrew has been “instrumental in getting the women’s team running”.

While the club is currently unable to train and play, they are still doing what they can to help their players. This includes refunding registration and uniform fees to anyone at the club facing financial hardships due to the impacts of the coronavirus.

Andrew said this was simply an essential part of what the club was.

“The absolute strength Torquay Hockey Club is how much of a community club we are.”