Versatile Lorraine back in 2021

By Robert Muir

With COVID-19 restrictions and a shoulder injury, star local and state hockey player in a career of over 1000 games, Lorraine Plunkett, is having an enforced spell this season.

But the highly respected player, coach and mentor during her 41 years involvement in sport has no plans of slowing down for season 2021. 

In fact, when hockey becomes a full-stop, the much decorated 56-year-old will continue playing sport. “I have played a little bit of golf over the years and I think once I can’t play hockey anymore this will be the game I will take up,” she told the Free Press.

“During the summer when there’s no hockey I play tennis for the Corowa Tennis Club where I have played in section 1 and 2 and have been part of premierships and have even won a few club titles - I have been involved with the club for the last 20 years, started as a beginner and loved it.”

She has played lots of indoor netball, volleyball, cricket and tennis when the Corowa Indoor Centre was open, being part of successful teams. “I really miss the indoor centre. Corowa needs another one,” she said.  

Last year Lorraine played her 200th game for Corowa Rutherglen Hockey United Club, on top of games with Corowa, Veterans and the Masters Games. “I’m not finished yet. Well my mind says I’m not but my body might!” she said.

It was 1979 when Lorraine took up hockey with the Corowa Hockey Club as a 15-year-old after her brother Bern convinced her to switch sports, despite her playing and loving netball.

She has represented Corowa in the Albury/Wodonga Association, competing in Divisions 1, 2 and 3 over the years. In 2011 Corowa Hockey Club amalgamated with Rutherglen Hockey Club to become known as Corowa Rutherglen United Hockey Club.

Corowa won its first premiership in 1982 in Division 2, won Division 1 in 1993 and were Division 2 premiers in 1998; finished runners-up on many occasions.

Then it was premiers in 2015, 2016 and 2017 playing Division 3 for CRUHC and in 2019 for Division 2. In 2007, Lorraine started playing Veterans for an Albury-based team Falcons playing off in plenty of grand finals but always being the bridesmaid.

Lorraine has won her club’s best and fairest award nine times; six with Corowa (1998, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2005 and 2008) and two with United (2010, 2016). 

She was simultaneously awarded Albury Wodonga Association League Best and Fairest in 2001 (Division 1), 1998, 2000, 2001, 2007, 2009, 2010 (Division 2) and for Division 3 in 2016 and 2017; for Veterans in 2007 and 2010. She was named best and fairest Veteran with Falcons in 2007, 2008, 2010 and 2011.

In 2003 Lorraine played state for Victoria in the over 35’s Veterans side in Adelaide. “This was an experience which I enjoyed, have thought about trying out again many times but I found another interest, in 2005 which was playing for a border team made up of mainly locals from Albury Wodonga and surrounds to play in the Australian Masters Games which is the largest multi-sport participation sporting event in Australia,” she said.

“These are held every second year - the year in between we play in the Pan Pacific Masters Games which are held on the Gold Coast or the Alice Springs Masters games - and fortunately have always come home with a medal either gold, silver or bronze and have made lots of new friends from all over Australia. 

“This was made possible by the hard work and organisation of another Corowa hockey player Maxine Eyles. Next year we were going to go to Japan for the world masters but because of COVID-19 we decided not to send a team but we are hopefully sending a team to participate in the Australian Masters in October 21 in Perth as this year’s pan pacs was cancelled.”

Maxine Eyles has known Lorraine since she was 15 and shared a premiership with her in 1982 playing in the A reserve division.

“I had the pleasure of taking the field with her once she started to play seniors and I still continue to run with her at a Masters level in the Border Masters team,” Max said.

“Lorraine – ‘Arnie’ as we know her, an extension of ‘Aunty’ - and my Australian Masters Games career began in 2006 in Adelaide and since in Canberra, Geelong, Tasmania, Gold Coast, Newcastle and Alice Springs.

“We’ve shared the field in World Masters Games in Melbourne, Sydney and New Zealand.

“She is a valued player to our Border Masters team and along with her great hockey skills, never ending friendship, she is also pretty good on the social scene as well, dancing is her forte.” 

Many hockey teams have been captained by Lorraine, in all divisions, and she has coached junior and senior sides when her children were playing. She has appreciated the knowledge of her own coaches.

“I have had many coaches over the years,” she said. “Neil Ormond was my first coach, Tim Head, Warren Eyles, Terry Upton, Dave Sadler, Dave Nancarrow, Arthur Campbell - they all had a big part in my hockey career and were the backbone of the Corowa Hockey Club. Another coach who I have a lot of respect for is Rainer Vogel who has been my coach over the last few years.”

Corowa coach for 22 years from 1979 to 2001, Dave Nancarrow was coach throughout much of Lorraine’s hockey in which the club has had some 170 players for 17 teams. “Even as a 16 or 17-year-old Lorraine showed tremendous talent, especially in the forward line,” the 66-year-old retired Corowa High School teacher said.

“She was fast, had great anticipation and goal sense; a team player and would always do her best for the team. 

“If not the first, about the first to play in the Riverina team from Corowa. It was an outstanding achievement as hockey was played by most schools. She played in sides which if beaten soundly she still managed to be top goal scorer in the competition or so close to it in the Albury Wodonga League which had six to eight teams, including the Corowa team.

“In her latter years, Lorraine played B Grade, captained the team as she has with the third grade team. The former coach said Lorraine plays for all the right reasons – she enjoys her hockey and helps all the girls. She plays full-back and is awesome for the team and the girls aged 13 to 15. 

“I nicknamed her ’Aunty’ – that became her nickname and she is called that by other teams.” 

Various positions on committees for both clubs have been held by Lorraine who is always willing to help in anyway, which includes umpiring. “I was involved in my children’s school teams as an umpire,” the passionate mother said.

“They hated it as they thought I was always picking on them! As my children got older they made representative teams and country teams so there was a lot of travelling for training and playing so I was always on the sidelines cheering and yelling, much to my children’s disgust they were always telling me to shut –up!” 

“My family has been a big support to me in my life. My brother Bern also played for Corowa and was very successful and won many awards. He always used to say (as he passed away two years ago) he taught me everything and I do believe that he did teach me heaps. My younger brother Mark played also and was also successful in the sport. My mother (Patricia) was a huge fan. She also has passed away. She came with me to every single game, baby-sat my children while I played. Another person who has been there with me is my husband Shorty who also loves to come and watch and support me.”

Born in Corowa, Lorraine lived in town all her life until recently when she moved to Rutherglen. “I love Corowa. It’s a great place to bring up children, great sporting region,” the former Corowa St Marys - and Corowa High School student where she made the Riverina school hockey team in Year 11 went to Ballina where she played for four days,” said.

Lorraine’s biggest highlights are having all her children while still playing hockey, becoming a Life member of Corowa Hockey Club in 2006, being a part of the first Division 1 team to win a premiership and all my B&Fs,” the Beechworth Honey in the Corowa factory employee of 12 years, said, adding: “It’s a great place to work and great people to work with for a very supportive family.”

Lorraine has played a lot of sport but hockey is her most successful and most loved sport. “I have made lots of friends over the years, with Corowa Hockey Club and now united hockey club which has a big following here in Corowa and have been very successful clubs over the years.”