HOCKEY: For more than ten years, nearly every junior hockey player who has played representative hockey has been coached by Rick Sampson.
Such is his influence on hockey in Grafton that he has been honoured by becoming a life member of the Grafton Hockey Association.
In a presentation following the GHA grand finals on Saturday, Sampson was presented with the award in recognition of his time and dedication to coaching junior hockey talent and helping anyone who wants to improve their hockey.
Village Green City Bears stalwart Michael Russ nominated Sampson for the honour, along with president Pete Fysh, and said it was a great recognition for the work Sampson does for Grafton hockey.
"Rick has got a lot of kids to state sides over the years, so it's only fair that he got some recognition," Russ said.
"Every junior kid that has made it into the state side, Rick has had something to do with them in the last ten years, which just goes to show you how good a coach he is.
"He is a really good coach, and it's really good to see him doing it. The kids love him, and he is a nice bloke.
"He doesn't charge anyboy to do the coaching, and it's really appreciated by everyone. He puts in the hours down there with the kids, coaching two to three times a week, and the kids all like being coached by him."
Russ said the life membership was a fitting way to show Sampson that his efforts are appreciated by everyone involved with the Grafton Hockey Association.
"It's always hard to get these sorts of people recognised, because they don't do it for the recognition," Russ said.
"They just turn up and do it, so this was one way we thought we could recognise Rick and it's really pleasing to see him receive this recognition."
Grafton Hockey Association president Lyn Newby said Sampson has a long history of supporting Grafton hockey.
"Rick helped initiate and developed the structure and program of what is now known as the GHA Academy for not just talented players but those that simply want to improve their hockey," she said.
"He has never turned a player away that has the commitment to improve. We only have to look at the way our representative teams fair at State Championships to know the impact that he has had on these players.
"Rick's major commitment has been to our juniors. Simply stated if juniors want to improve their hockey Rick will be their willing to offer his time and knowledge freely."