The Sparks Hockey Club, a cornerstone of Gladstone’s sporting history, is gearing up to celebrate its remarkable 90th anniversary. The achievement is a testament to the dedication of countless individuals who have been involved with the club since its inception, marking it as the only original club from the Gladstone Hockey Association’s inception.
Sparks Hockey Club was officially formed on 7 July 1935 at a meeting held in the Gladstone School of Arts. Harold Jensen, a teacher of commercial subjects at the Gladstone State High School and a State hockey representative called a meeting of men interested in forming a hockey eleven. The Club played in the first official men’s hockey fixture played in Gladstone on 14 July 1935 against Bandits and Sparks has continued to play a major role in the Gladstone hockey scene since its foundation in 1935, with many life members still involved in the operation of the Club today.
President and descendant of one of the club’s foundation members, Roy Fenton, expressed the significance of the milestone, stating, “Being president for our 90th year is a special moment for me. It’s a great achievement for all those who have been part of the Sparks journey.”
Reflecting on the club’s rich history, Fenton shared some memorable moments, especially from the early 80s, when Sparks legends like Ross Leask, John Robson, the McKelvie twins, and Ray Flint graced the field. The A-grade men’s team’s impressive streak of nine consecutive finals wins, starting in 2002, stands out, solidifying Sparks’ presence in every grand final since 1935.
The Sparks Hockey Club has played a pivotal role in the local community over the past nine decades, fostering a family-oriented atmosphere and encouraging young players to develop teamwork, leadership skills, and personal growth from their early years to adulthood.
Hockey’s landscape has evolved since the club’s inception, with periods of growth, glory days, and the recent challenges of declining player numbers. The club adapted by embracing artificial surfaces and overcoming logistical obstacles, but it now faces the threat of a dwindling A-grade competition.
Looking at growth and development, Sparks remains a family-focused club, engaging with sponsors, local businesses, and the community to support players and provide opportunities for both local and representative achievements.
However, the journey hasn’t been without challenges. The rising costs of participation, attracting sponsors, and keeping juniors engaged in the face of shifting societal patterns have been ongoing hurdles. To address these, the club has employed various strategies, including reduced fees, fundraising events, and maintaining a strong volunteer base.
The club’s contribution to young talent development is evident through the commitment of senior players coaching juniors and the success stories of players progressing to state and national levels. Initiatives to foster youth involvement continue, ensuring a pipeline of talent for the future.
As the Sparks Hockey Club marks its 90-year journey, the club has preserved historical artifacts and memorabilia, showcasing its rich history dating back to 1935. Plans for exhibitions and displays are underway to commemorate this significant milestone.
Despite the struggles, the club envisions a bright future, thanks to a dedicated committee and coaching staff. The possibility of regional clubs forming their own competition is discussed, offering a potential solution to the financial strain imposed by governing bodies.
To celebrate this momentous occasion, Sparks has planned a special dinner on Easter Saturday at the Gladstone Bowls Club. Former Kookaburras captain Mark Knowles, an acclaimed hockey figure, will be the guest speaker, sharing his journey from a Rockhampton junior to international success. Coaching clinics by Knowles for Gladstone juniors will precede the dinner, making it an eventful celebration of 90 years of Sparks Hockey Club history. All interested in attending are welcome to join in the festivities and hear from a hockey legend.