Living and breathing hockey
By MAX GODBEE
HIGH achievers in hockey have long been the backbone of the Grafton Hockey Association and one of the most valued is Vic Wunderlich.
Vic has served as a valued player in local senior ranks, as well as in NSW and Australian representative teams in veterans' hockey.
He has been a member of winning state and national teams and no doubt his greatest sporting delight was being part of the Australian Over-60 veterans' team which won the silver medal at the 2002 World Cup at Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia and then gold for Australia in the 2004 World Veterans' Titles in Athens.
In his earlier days Vic played as a back but these days he prefers action in the forward line.
As well as world travel he has toured throughout Australia playing in representative matches for NSW, always a credit to the sport that he loves so much.
Vic has not only been an elite player but has done his share as a coach and one of the trio who helped form the Grafton Junior Hockey Association in the 1970s.
Vic's first foray on to coaching was in 1960, just two years after he took up the sport and he has been involved in training and coaching school, club and association junior and senior male and female players virtually each year since.
Added to that Vic has made dozens upon dozens of goal posts as required, marked hockey fields, often with the aid of family members, and served terms as secretary and later president of the Grafton Men's Hockey Association.
It is only natural that his efforts have been rewarded in being given given life membership of the Grafton Men's Hockey Association in 1980, of the famous Avros Hockey Club in 1981, and in 1985 life membership of the Grafton Junior Hockey Association.
The Avros Hockey Club actually went into recess in 1968 and was re-formed in 1973, mainly due to Vic's efforts in starting Junior Avros, and then in 1978, as the juniors progressed, the Avros club was able to re-enter the association's open competition.
As well as hockey Vic has performed well in team tennis, basketball and indoor hockey.
Another feather in his cap was when named 2005 Clarence Valley Council Sportsperson of the Year.
Victor Michael Wunderlich was born in 1941 at South Grafton's 'Clarence House' Private Hospital, owned by Sir Earle Page.
He is the son of Victor and Vera (nee Schreiber) Wunderlich.
His father had been a farmer but was an automotive mechanic in his brother's garage business, W A Wunderlich Machinery Company South Grafton, at the time of his son's birth.
As a young farmer Vic senior and his father ran cattle on agistment on Lower Fisher Park.
Vic senior had another affinity with that portion of the park, too, having around 1920 set up an informal nine holes golf course on the land.
He mowed grass fairways and sank jam tins into the soil as cups (holes) and he and a number of friends played there regularly with much gusto.
Later on, of course, the Grafton Council in conjunction with the Clarence River Cricket Association had a couple of cricket fields on the park and some minor rugby league games were played there by Grafton High School students on Wednesday sports afternoons.
Later again, hockey was established with several quality grass fields and more recently with one and then two synthetic fields constructed.
Add a well-planned and vital amenities centre and there is no doubt Lower Fisher is one of the best site and attractive sports fields on the North Coast.
Vic Wunderlich junior as a youngster attended kindergarten at the South Grafton Primary School and completed the remainder of his early education at St Joseph's school in Spring Street, and then spent three years at Grafton's St Mary's College, where at 14, he gained the Intermediate Certificate.
"Our main sports at the schools were football (rugby league) and cricket," Vic said.
"In football I played in a variety of positions as needed, halfback, five-eighth or wing in schools competition.
"We had United Rugby League Club captain Neville Clough, one of the best known and most popular footballers of his time, as our coach and thoroughly enjoyed each training session as well as the actual games.
"As well as his fine attacking play Neville was a master defender and in teaching he would invite us to tackle him around the legs, but he was a big and strong man and the task was a bit daunting.
"Our biggest trouble at school was that, in reality, St Mary's was a college for girls.
"We boys were tolerated and taught well but there was a severe lack of sports equipment for us.
"There was no such thing as cricket pads, there were holes in the one pair of long-used keeper's gloves, we borrowed bats and the cricket ball we owned had lost its shine some 300 overs ago.
"That was until Father McGovern came to the school as a teacher and he fixed things up, sending a couple of us to buy equipment at McLachlan's Sports Store in Prince Street."
On leaving school at 14 Vic began an apprenticeship with his uncle Bill at the Wunderlich Machinery Company garage in Bent Street, South Grafton.
He became a fully fledged mechanic and after combining work with five years' study at the Grafton Technical College (now TAFE) he gained the prized higher trades certificate.
After seven years with the WA Wunderlich Company Vic took up employment with the Public Works Department (PWD) working on the Lower Clarence Water Supply.
In the meantime he had played competition tennis alongside his parents in the South Grafton Tennis Club teams and then in 1958, aged 17, he took up hockey, playing with the newly formed Grafton Motor Scooter Hockey Club.
The following year Vic wore the red and white of the Avros Hockey Club.
After gaining a plant operator's certificate and increased pay with the PWD, Vic found it time-consuming and expensive travelling to the Lower Clarence area each work day as he had done for the past 18 months, so he joined the Nymboida Shire Council workforce as plant mechanic and was there for 12 months before joining his father who was plant mechanic with Ulmarra shire.
"I worked at Ulmarra as plant operator, mainly driving machinery, and was receiving my best money since I started employment," Vic said.
"When Dad tragically died in 1972, the shire council made me plant foreman and eventually plant superintendent and I held that position until I retired in 1999 after 37 years with the shire."
On the hockey front, from joining Avros club in 1958, Vic played for the club until it went in recess and he then received a phone call from good friend Norm Whitford inviting him to join the Sailors Hockey Club.
Vic sailed with the Clarence River Sailing Club, too, for some seasons, crewing on the Malcolm Eggins-built NS 14, T.Totaller for skipper Ray Cavanagh.
He played hockey with the Sailors Club for six years helping coach a number of junior players and with Norm Whitford and another great hockey enthusiast, Tom Moller, set up the Grafton Junior Boys Hockey Association, including the three of them helping by putting finance into the operation.
Vic helped re-start the Avros Hockey Club by training young team players.
It was in 1962 that Vic Wunderlich married Joan Hollis at Grafton's St Mary's Catholic Church.
Joan is the daughter of George and Rita Hollis, of Grafton, originally of Port Macquarie.
She had played netball at St Mary's College but when she left school there was no town netball competition, so she became involved in hockey with Vic.
She has devoted much time to supporting Vic, their son, Michael and daughter, Sandra and grandkids in the sport.
Michael is married to Sharon (nee Sabine) and they have sons, Adam and Lucas.
Sandra is mother to daughter Taylah and son Jack. Both Michael and his sister Sandra, along with Michael's sons, Adam and Lucas, are keen hockey players.
Vic has no hesitation in proclaiming that among his proudest moments in hockey was when he lined up with son Michael for Avros.
Now he can top even that, with 14-year-old grandson, Adam, also with Avros, making it father, son and grandson playing in the same team in the Grafton hockey competition.
And that indeed is something unique. There is no thought of retirement from hockey by Vic, now in his mid-60s. He still looks amazingly fit, his enthusiasm is still unwavering and he hopes to play many years yet for Avros and for representative veterans' teams.