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A message from the Chair

A message from the Chair

Author: David Tarbotton & Ron Bendall/Friday, 23 August 2019/Categories: News


Earlier this year I had the privilege of being the interim CEO of Athletics NSW for about four months.  It has given me an insight into our sport that few people see, and I have learnt a great deal. 


I know from talking to many people that it would be nice to go back to the halcyon days of the 1980s.  I have to be clear here: that will never happen.  The world is a different place: technology has changed immensely, there are more opportunities and choices for young people, and this is coupled with generational change in attitudes… and by the way there is this thing called the Internet.  Moving through this millennium madness we have to be smarter and also more aware of the political environment. 


I said a few times last year that our sport is at a crossroads and in a state of change.  There has been quite a bit of change over the last 12 months, and as I also foretold, some of that change can be uncomfortable.  It reminds me a bit of my university days when large groups would chant, “We want change.  We want change”,  however the same individuals would incredulously say, “What?? You want me to change?!  I’m not going to change.” 


Our sport will need to change if we are to become relevant and grow within the sporting world and the wider community.


Change is a team effort.  Without you nothing will happen.  Our sport is strong because of the people that are in it.


Athletics New South Wales AGM

Last week we held the 24th AGM for Athletics NSW, albeit the Association itself is 132 years old. 


It has been a year of reform and Athletics New South Wales is both a company and also the governing body for our sport.  We have legal and compliance issues as well as regulatory requirements that we must meet while at the same time developing athletics at all levels.  The balance of all of this can be challenging especially when we are looking to make positive change.  Thank you to each board member who, like many other people in our sport, is volunteering their time and skills for the betterment of athletics.


Last year I said that there were three objectives for athletics in New South Wales those objectives are ongoing.  To remind of what they are let’s have a look at them.


  1. OneSport

  2. Participation

  3. Member servicing


    These continue to be our guiding objectives and we continually measure ourselves against them.


    The AGM itself was successful and we elected two new directors.


    Andrew Matthews has been associated with Athletics NSW in various capacities for over 15 years; athlete, administrator, coach, team manager, volunteer and Technical Official.  He has commended the ANSW Board and staff on the vision and direction the organisation has taken over this time.  Now he relishes the opportunity to continue his journey as a board member.


    Lisa Thompson’s involvement in athletics spans back three decades where she has been an active and dedicated member of multiple athletic clubs across Victoria and NSW.  She grew up in a country town in Victoria and long-distance running was always her passion.  Lisa has won numerous state titles and medals as a junior and represented Victoria in both track and cross country running.  In 2012 she moved to Sydney and joined Athletics East, where she is currently a committee member.


    I want to also sincerely thank Kerry O’Keefe who has stood down after four years on the Athletics NSW Board.  Kerry has given valuable guidance and leadership which has benefited the whole sport of athletics.  I want to also thank Kerry personally for the support that she has given me.



    Whilst talking about our Board I want to publicly congratulate the board of Athletics New South Wales for making the brave decision to have ownership in RunWest. To be clear, RunWest is totally owned by Athletics New South Wales and Athletics Australia.  And for those that may not remember the City to Surf, Australia’s largest and most iconic fun run, was an initiative of Athletics New South Wales (then the New South Wales Amateur Athletics Association).  But after three years it was virtually given away to private enterprise.  RunWest will remain the property of our sport. 


    We already have some improvements planned for next year to make it bigger and better.  To be honest we did make some mistakes and there is a lot of learning, but this should be expected of any large new event.  What we can claim is that RunWest is largest inaugural fun run in Australia’s history.  It has a huge corporate and government partnership base developed amazingly in a relative short period of time and we are looking to add to these partners.  Additionally, RunWest was the winner of the Best Community Event at the Sports New South Wales Awards that I attended in June this year.  This recognition was across all sports and across all of New South Wales. 


    I have said publicly that my vision is that RunWest will be larger than the City to Surf and just as culturally significant.  Time will tell.



Three years ago I attended the New South Wales government’s annual sports awards.  I remember being dismayed at the time that athletics did not have one single finalist for awards that evening.  There was Ultimate Frisbee, martial arts, Dragon Boats but not athletics.  I set a goal then that the sport of athletics would have five finalists and win two of them within three years.  This year, I attended the Sports NSW Community Awards and we had eight nominations and won five awards.  I want to be clear though: this is not about winning awards or having trophies in the cabinet.  


The reason why I want to see ‘Athletics’ on the podium is for the recognition and acknowledgement of our sport by government, and also the corporate world.  We need to be seen in those quarters.  The growth of our sport is, and will be, determined by external bodies as much as it will be by the way it is led by the athletics family.  In other words organisations like Athletics New South Wales obviously play a crucial part in the leadership and growth of our sport.  However, equally so, we rely more and more on government and also the corporate sector.  



For those that attended the Athletics NSW annual dinner I said that the sport of athletics attracts people with strong opinions and sometimes quite opposite opinions so there is often debate which can be rigourous.  However, the one thing that links us all together in all disciplines is passion.  We care for our sport.  We love our sport.  We have a passion for our sport.  Whilst that passion is there, I have no doubt that our sport will grow and prosper over the ensuring years.


I look forward to seeing you at the track, field, cross country, road, or park sometime soon.


Yours in athletics.




Dr Peter Higgins


Athletics New South Wales


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