Esperance sporting hero honoured

Love of the game: Champion athlete and coach Gail Anderson with her grandmother Evelyn Kerr and daughter and granddaughter Tanya and Shari Rogers at the Esperance Hockey Grounds. Photo: Jake Dietsch.
Love of the game: Champion athlete and coach Gail Anderson with her grandmother Evelyn Kerr and daughter and granddaughter Tanya and Shari Rogers at the Esperance Hockey Grounds. Photo: Jake Dietsch.

What is it about sport that is addictive?

For most it is the thrill, the fun, the celebrations, the challenge and the camaraderie.

Basically, it’s love of the game!

Gail Anderson has played for the love of many sports in her 64 years – netball, swimming, tennis, golf and basketball but it has been hockey to which she has devoted her energy and enthusiasm above all other sports.

The list of her achievements and involvement in sport over the years is both extensive and impressive.

She is a life member of the Esperance Hockey Association, a recipient of the John Walsh Service Award, a State Finalist in the Outstanding Young Australian Sports Award for Junior Coaching and has achieved numerous All Star selections. 

Last year she was inducted into the Esperance Sporting Hall of Fame in recognition of her achievements as a player, coach, umpire and committee person in a variety of sports but particularly hockey.

The love of sport for Gail began as a young child. 

She was born in Norseman in 1964, the eldest child of Evelyn and Paddy Kerr.

Keen sportspeople themselves they encouraged Gail and her siblings Kerry and Brian to participate in as many sports as possible.

In her primary school years Gail played netball, tennis and was an outstanding swimmer. 

The family moved to Salmon Gums in 1966 to take over from Paddy’s mother running the post office, shop, garage and machinery business as well as buying and developing a farm.

In 1967 Gail moved to Perth and boarded at Swanleigh Hostel while attending Hampton Senior High School. 

With an abundance of sport on offer she was very happy and it was in Year 9 that she decided to try hockey and immediately loved it. 

When home on holidays she played for the Mallee Hockey Club, an association which continued until 1980.

Fate stepped in when Gail returned home after completing Year 12 and met a young man from New Zealand, Don Anderson, who was working for her father. 

They married two years later in 1973 and daughter, Tanya was born in 1975, and sons Glen in 1976 and Tim in 1985.

That same year Gail helped start the sub-junior hockey competition and from 1986 to 1993 she coached many junior, U17 and Senior teams at Narrogin carnivals, High School Country Week and State Championships. 

After playing and coaching the Bacchus club from 1981 – 1988 Gail captained, coached, played and mentored the young players of the Esperance Senior High School team, including daughter Tanya and Melissa Bennell who went on to represent Australia at a U 21 level.

In 1994, having completed her first year of teacher training through correspondence and with Tanya and Glen studying in Perth the family decided it would be more practical to move to the city. 

For the next ten years Gail played in Division 2/3 at the Willeton Hockey Club and for the Melville Veteran’s team while also coaching and umpiring. 

She helped foster many Esperance players to continue their hockey in Perth, with Willeton.

Since 1995, apart from two years, she has been selected in the WA State Veteran’s team. 

In 2012 she spent a year on teacher exchange in Canada and in 1996 was diagnosed with breast cancer. 

With her typical indomitable spirit she beat the cancer and returned to the team the following year.

In 2004 Glen tragically died in a workplace vehicle accident and the family decided to return home to Esperance. 

Gail threw herself into teaching and hockey with a highlight last year being selected in the Australian Trans- Tasman team, playing in New Zealand. 

What attributes does Gail possess that makes her such a successful player? 

According to team mates it is her composure under pressure, her ability to read and anticipate the play, her physical strength and commitment to training and fitness which are her greatest assets.

Gail’s greatest enjoyment has come from coaching and seeing players improve and reach their potential. 

Playing with her daughter and both sons in mixed competitions, as well as coaching grand-daughter Shari’s teams are more important to Gail than personal accolades. 

In a fortnight she will travel to Spain as a reserve and official for the Australian team in the World Master’s competition. 

With so much still to achieve and to give Gail Anderson is truly an exceptional sportsperson.