History repeats for Masters Hockey star
HOCKEY: Two years ago Michael Russ represented Australia for the first time at the ripe old age of 51.
He came home from the FIH Masters Over-50 World Cup in the Netherlands with a bronze medal around his neck and in the process was named Senior Sportsperson of the Year at the inaugural Clarence Valley Sports Awards.
"That was a pretty big moment for me," Russ said.
"You don't expect to win that sort of thing.
"It blew me away actually. I was really, really surprised to get it up against some of those other guys, like Mitchy Lollback or Ryan Farrell."
But any thoughts of slowing down after ticking off those milestones faded quickly. After getting a taste of international hockey, Russ has become hungrier than ever and last month went one better - collecting silver at the Over-50 World Cup, this time as part of the host nation in Canberra.
"It was pretty special to get into the gold medal game," he said. "I'd never done that before.
"It would have been good to go one better, but you can't always do that I suppose."
Russ endured one of the lowlights of his hockey career this week when he copped two blows to the head from the ball during matches for City Bears.
The first time he was struck below the ear midway through the second half of Reserve Grade. Then just five minutes into his side's 6-2 thrashing of Royals in Premier League, Russ was hit above the eye and went to hospital where he received six stitches.
"How do you get hit in the head twice? You wouldn't read about it," he exclaimed.
"I look like the elephant man."
But appearances won't stop the tough veteran taking his spot on the field when City Bears host Ballina this Saturday.
This weekend represents the first matches against Far North Coast opposition in the Inter-District Competition.
Also on Saturday, Sailors travel to Lismore to take on Northern Star. Sunday sees Royals host Coraki and Barbs play away to East Lismore.
Russ held off a strong list of nominees this month including fellow international hockey Matt Lobsey, who represented Australia Over-35s in a Trans-Tasman Tri-Series with New Zealand Over-35s and Australian Country Opens, bringing home a bronze medal.
Angourie surfer Chris Zaffis was unlucky to miss out after he upstaged a host of household names to claim his World Surf League Qualifying Series victory in the Mentawai Pro in Indonesia.
Grafton Ghosts outside backs Dylan Collett and Mitch Gorman were also nominated after the pair were selected for the North Coast Dolphins representative rugby league team. The pair have formed a lethal centre-wing combination this season.
A Group 2 Under-18 representative in 2015, Collett has enjoyed a breakthrough season in the senior ranks, while Gorman has continued from his breakthrough 2015 with a mountain of tries in 2016 including a second half hattrick in the Group 2 representative clash against Group 3, which the Gladiators lost 36-34.