Life Membership - Ben “Remo” Chiarella
Sydney University Hockey Club is proud to announce that at the 2018 AGM our 11th club life membership was nominated and elected.
Below is are the words read out during the meeting as a part of the nomination.
Ben has provided enormously important, sustained, positive and highest quality services to the Club for almost 20 years as a player, coach, office-bearer, representative and supporter. Most importantly, in everything he has done he has significantly enhanced the standing of the club with the broader University, Sydney’s hockey community and the community generally.
Unique Contribution to Saving the Men’s Club and Creating the Junior Club
When Ben joined SUHC in 2000 it did not have a juniors club, and Sydney Hockey Association, which governed men’s hockey in Sydney, was threatening to demote clubs like SUHC that were not engaged in junior development. Ben had been coaching at North Sydney Juniors, whose senior club had separated itself and been absorbed by Gordon when their numbers and money collapsed. Now the North Sydney Juniors were themselves on the verge of collapse due to falling numbers.
Ben saved those juniors and our own Men’s club’s status, in a sense, by negotiating to move the old North Sydney Juniors to SUHC and procuring that SUHC could continue to use Primrose Park as its training field and clubhouse. This was done when he was still a young student.
When the clubs were joined Ben was the first President of SUHC Juniors (2001-2002) as well as a coach (2001-2004) for our youngest (Under 11) players, even though he was also coaching some of SUHC’s women’s teams at the same time. For three years he dedicated his time to running free “Get into Hockey” programs in schools throughout the lower North Shore in order to promote hockey and more importantly SUHC Juniors as a place for them to take up a new sport. His selfless efforts meant SUHC Juniors were able to maintain and then build numbers in an area where SUHC had no record and no name recognition. Thanks to Ben, the Juniors grew from having only two teams in 2000 (one U 11, one U13) to having multiple teams in each of the U11, U13, U15 and even U17 age divisions a few years later.
With his support and the support of later VP Juniors we grew to having almost 150 registered junior players, winning numerous outdoor and indoor titles and having a number of rep players, again thanks in part to Ben who volunteered early on to be a selector for the Sydney junior regional teams whenever necessary to ensure our players were not intentionally overlooked by larger and more successful clubs.
A number of the players who were first drawn to SUHC by Ben and his efforts, and often coached by him as juniors, have gone on to play in our Men’s and Women’s Premier League teams and to serve on our Committees. Some of the players first brought to SUHC by Ben’s efforts have even represented NSW and Australia. Ben was proud of this, but he was a mentor and champion for all players, regardless of skills. His support for the junior teams as a whole was legendary. It included him driving straight to Pennant Hills for a 8:45am Saturday morning Under 15C Juniors Grand Final - direct from his own stag party, along with a car full of less sober SUHC Premier Squad players. The Premier Squad players provided our Juniors and their opponents with the loudest, funniest and best-educated cheer squad any of them had ever had. The support was typical of Ben’s dedication to the players across the Club: it did not matter whether it was 1st Grade Women, 8th grade men or the Under 15Cs: Ben took the time out from other things to urge the club on. One of the perpetual trophies for the Juniors is named in his honour.
Service to the Club through Committee Roles
Ben willingly did whatever he could to promote and assists SUHC. His roles over the years have included:
2001, 2002: SUHC President of Junior Club – First Ever
2004: Social Convenor
2003, 2005, 2006, 2007: Fresher Rep
2005: Club Captain
2009: President (role assumed mid-year when incumbent stepped down)
2009: Club Captain
2013: President (again when incumbent stepped down).
2014, 2015: President
Ben was also a regular MC for the club’s awards nights and a champion of the early fund-raising efforts to build our own turf.
It is a sign of his great commitment that there were so many occasions when the club was left in the lurch through circumstances beyond anyone’s control and it was Ben who stepped up to help.
Unique Contribution to Coaching
2001 – 2004: Under 11 and Under 13 Junior Coaching
2003 – 2004: Lower grade Women Coach
2005 – 2009: Women’s 3rd grade coach. Took a newly built SUHC 3rd grade from entering ML5 to ML3 with 3 Minor Premierships and a Premiership
2010: Coach of Women’s 2nd Grade - first ML2 Premiership
2011: Preseason fitness coach for Men’s and Women’s Premier Division
2011: Culture Change Consultant for Men’s First grade
2012: Coach of Men’s 2nds
2015: Coach of Women’s 1sts (ML1 Premiership)
Ben has coached not only our youngest players - the Under 11s - but players right through the spectrum including lower-grade women, Women’s 3rds , 2nds and 1 sts (including a Premiership win in 2015) as well as Men’s 2nds. His most spectacular impact was possibly in 2012, when he took over as coach of our Men’s 2nds halfway through the season after the initial coach was transferred overseas. At that time the team was coming last and was almost certain to be relegated. By the end of the season, with Ben as coach, they only narrowly missed the finals. Many of the team said that having Ben as coach lead to some of their most enjoyable and successful periods of play ever.
No other coach in the club’s history has a record anything like this. He may have continued beyond 2015 if he had not moved to regional NSW for work.
Contribution as a Player
Ben played 166 games in our senior teams from 2000-2013, including in 1sts and 2nds, although he asserts modestly that his major claim to fame was the frequency and extent of his season-ending injuries.
2009: SUHC Club Person of the Year
2008 and 2009: SUHC Coach of the Year
2006: 100 games medal (166 games in total from 2000-2013)
2010: Nominee for Sydney Uni Sport & Fitness Coach of the year
2011: SUSF Gold
Managed and attended EUGs and AUGs from 2001 – 2007 winning 7 medals: 1 gold, 1 silver, 2 bronze @ EUGs and 2 Silver & 1 bronze @ AUGS
In 2009 Ben was largely responsible for establishing SUHC’s Elite Hockey Program. After a poor 2008 he asked the Executive to allow him to seek a top level coach for SUHC with the aim of setting up an elite hockey program similar to rugby and rowing. He was instrumental in having the Women’s NSWIS and later the Belgium National Coach join SUHC as the first Elite Coaching Director, and then Aaron Oman (NSW Waratahs assistant coach and later a SUHC Masters Premiership-winning player). This program is the reason we now have Scott Barker as our current Director of Hockey, and has been an important factor in securing the excellent relationship with SU and SUSF that has facilitated our turf.
Ben was instrumental in establishing a strong relationship with SUSF after 2008, when he worked with SUSF. His constant hard work, networking and strong bonds with SUSF were instrumental in ensuring SUSF was well-disposed to maintaining or funding at adequate levels, and then in them being supportive of the concept of a new field being built for SUHC when this was first raised as a serious possibility in 2015. Ben attended many of the initial high-level meetings with SUSF and can be given credit for suggesting the highly-successful operating structure where our Director of Hockey has an active role in managing the University’s own facilities.
Ben is widely known as one of the immensely popular, well-known, smiling, cheerful, dedicate, successful and hard-working players /coaches/ administrators/ supporters that every club wants to have and keep forever. He is the best that SUHC stands for, and we are proud to elect him as a most deserving Life Member.
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