Twenty years on from the Sydney Olympics, one of Bundaberg’s finest sporting products Troy Elder has fond memories of his whole experience as part of the Australian team.
He still cherishes the bronze medal which he earned at those Games, bagging a hat-trick of goals in the Kookaburras men’s hockey team’s 6-3 win over Pakistan.
“But it was a mixed bag of lollies. We had to get over the disappointment of not making the final, so we didn’t achieve what we set out to do but that’s what sport is all about,” Troy said.
“But it was my first Olympics and holy moly, it was exciting. I got the chance to do what not a lot of athletes get to do – compete in a home Olympics in Sydney and the buzz around Australia was something special.
“The Opening Ceremony was pretty awesome; we were fortunate enough to go along and Hockeyroo Rechelle Hawkes got to read the Athletes’ Oath.
“How Cathy Freeman responded to the expectations of public pressure was something to remember and every event we got to see Australia compete in was memorable, there were lots of milestone events.”
Troy said holding the Games was Australia’s greatest ever performance to the world as well.
“Unfortunately I didn’t get to the pool to see Thorpey and Co but all team members were in their own way highlights for me, whether they won medals or achieved PBs as part of a greater team, and everyone would nod their head and say gidday and good luck,” he said.
“Personally, three goals in the bronze medal match was special but I would have preferred to score in the semi-final. I would have traded them in instead of saving them all for that.
“Still a bronze medal was nothing to be sneezed at – an Olympic Medal – you work hard for any achievement and to come away from the Games with something was still a great effort to achieve.
“All the bronze medals were made out of one and two cent pieces that had been taken out of circulation and that’s also something to explain to the kids.”
Four years later in Athens, Troy was a solid contributor when the team finally secured Australia its first Olympic gold medal in men’s hockey after 48 years of trying, scoring in three of the Kookaburras’ games, including the first goal in the team’s 6-3 win over Spain in the semi-final.
The team beat defending champion the Netherlands 2-1 for the gold.
“Obviously, the gold will always hold pride of place,” Troy said.
“It’s what hockey holds as the most prestigious event and to achieve that with a group of like-minded people and some of your closest friends was definitely a highlight.
“Just the atmosphere of Sydney was definitely not replicated in Athens.
“In Sydney there were so many people in and around the village and all sports were pretty much in one area and it was more of a sports expo feeling and the village sports centre was a fun and exciting place to be but in Athens, the venues were spread out all over the place.”
Troy retired from international hockey at the age of 30 in 2007, going out on a high after the Kookaburras won a four-test series against the Netherlands.
He finished with 104 goals in 169 games, but he continued to play for Queensland Blades in the AHL championships for a number of years.
He now lives in Brisbane with his wife and two daughters, eight and 10, and he still plays hockey in between all his work and family commitments.
Troy regularly visits Bundaberg as his parents Ray and Debbie, other family members and many relatives and friends still live here.
He did not get back for the recent Bundaberg Hockey grand finals, won by his childhood club All Blacks in the men's division, completing four straight premierships under the coaching of his younger brother Ricky, who was also a key player in each and who told him all about it.
He also visits periodically in his work position as construction manager of the Water and Wastewater Division of Pensar Infrastructure in Brisbane.
“We also do electrical, roads and anything in constructions,” he said.
“We do a fair bit for Bundaberg Regional Council and have just done the water treatment plant upgrade at Branyan.”
“Bundaberg will always be home for me, and we are never far away.”
- Earlier report: History repeats at Bundaberg hockey finals