Going places on a million

THERE is something very telling about the state of island sport when the three biggest annual prizes on offer, are collected by stand-ins.

THERE is something very telling about the state of island sport when the three biggest annual prizes on offer, are collected by stand-ins.

It might render the applause a little more hollow than it might otherwise have been, but it demonstrates that in the modern sporting world our top stars cannot simply hang around waiting to collect trophies.

Heather Watson was in Melbourne, Lee Merrien up a big hill in Kenya and Alison Merrien in chilly Potters Leisure Resort on the English east coast, targeting another world indoor bowls crown.

But that’s our sport in 2013: going places.

And so, too, are the people holding it together and providing direction in developmental terms – the Guernsey Sports Commission – that on Wednesday evening announced it had passed the £1m. mark in funds raised directly for island sport.

It’s taken just a decade to hit the figure, an astonishing effort, and it has been achieved by the groundwork, contacts, respect, vision and business nous, of the likes of its chairman Stuart Falla and two commissioners who bowed out of the organisation on Wednesday night: Dave Chilton and David Warr.

Appropriately and deservedly, both men were afforded special commendation by the chairman in his closing speech in front of 280 people in a packed Dave Ferguson Room.

‘A true inspiration... an exceptional Culture and Leisure chief officer,’ said Falla on Chilton.

‘....an incredible contribution to the island,’ Falla of his retiring deputy.

The awards were ever more slick and professional. They rewarded the best and were representative of where our sport is today, which is in better shape than our governmental position and just about any other aspect of island life you could care to mention.

The commission has virtually every base covered, but what is pleasing to hear from the mouth of its ambitious chairman is that they are setting targets to improve further.

And surely it is no coincidence that the vast majority of its affiliated sports are being taken along to new heights behind it.

The work will never truly be done, but all of us who love sport can sleep well in the knowledge that with this commission it is in safe hands.

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IF THERE has been one ‘big’ sport trailing behind the pacesetters in development these past few decades, it has been golf.

The emergence of the brilliant Aimee Ponte and James Hamon has been despite the system, not because of it.

But, things could change on that score and it was encouraging to hear that the umbrella body, the Guernsey Golf Union, have taken up the cudgel and gone as far as seeking a full review.

Consequently, a discussion paper was produced and, after presentation of that report, the GGU intend to ramp up their act.

The man pushing junior golf is Colin Watson, alongside June Le Poidevin and Jeff Davies.

Watson acknowledges that something needs to happen and told Inside Track of how golf is going into junior schools at as early as Year 4 level.

‘We think it is really important,’ he said. ‘All junior school kids in Year 4 will have golf and we are also working with the [club] pros to possibly invite kids in Year 6.’

The GGU plans to introduce a golf skills challenge and at club level it is planned to have a ‘junior organiser’ at each local club.

Further up the age scale Watson and the GGU are also investigating an annual under-23 inter-insular.

‘There needs to be a logical progression from the under-18s,’ he said. ‘The main thing is to have some sort of structure.

‘We have got two exceptionally strong players [Ponte and Hamon]. They don’t come along too often and we need to use them to inspire others.

‘The good thing is that we have got five or six useful girls coming through and we now have a first girls’ captain in Aimee.’

Key to it all, Watson acknowledges, is for the clubs to commit to junior development and not, as has happened in the past, pay lip-service to it.

The involvement of the club professionals are also vital and Watson is confident of that.

‘All the pros will be in the same room next week and it is great that everybody is now singing from the same hymn sheet.’

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WHAT is a sure sign of commitment? In Tanni Grey-Thompson’s case it was endless days of training and being ‘on a trunk road covered in snot’.

Not a nice thought, but a picture representative of what champions such as the woman with 16 paralympic medals and 20 world records to her name are about.

‘I hate to see talent wasted,’ she told the Beau Sejour audience this week and, added, ‘If you have got talent don’t waste it’.

Which brings Inside Track on to domestic football.

Where is our foreign talent pushing for places in Priaulx League teams or, for that matter, GFC?

Hardly a season goes by when basketball does not advance itself with the skills of a new East European.

Last year it was Kalvis Spruda, this winter it has been Andrejs Vaganors, both from Latvia and both very good.

In volleyball, it has been the same.

Richard Skipper, the sport’s development officer, said they have benefited greatly.

‘We have got half-a-dozen that go to Nashcopy training, mainly boys.

‘They are welcomed and we are looking to get them involved.

‘They have found us and it is good for us... good to have extra competition.’

But where are the footballers?

I find it difficult to imagine that of all the many hundred Eastern Europeans who come to work in the island, that there are not a few footballing gems capable of enhancing our game.

Surely, it matters not whether they are here three months or a year.

Is it that they are not being made welcome by the wider game as such?

Rangers have a handy and versatile guy in Jacob Machlowski, who has shone between the posts and, more recently, at right back, but sadly all too little foreign talent, in general, is featuring. That’s a pity.