Decades of Dedication: Service to Sport Award Honours Jan Cooper, Tony Ball, and David Neesham
SportWest proudly announces the recognition of three remarkable individuals for their unwavering commitment and decades of service, with the trio set to receive the May Campbell Medal for their Service to Sport at the 2023 WA Sport Awards set to be presented at HBF Stadium on Thursday 29 February.
Jan Cooper (Australian Rules Football), Tony Ball (Swimming) and David Neesham (Water Polo) will be honoured at Western Australia’s most prestigious sports awards, having given combined service of more than 150 years to their respective sports in the WA community.
SportWest Acting-CEO, Ashleigh Apps is in awe of the dedication our winners have to their sport.
“Their passion, commitment, and selfless contributions have not only enriched the sporting community but have also inspired future generations of athletes and volunteers. Very worthy recipients of the May Campbell Medal”, she said.
The Service to Sport Award recognises the distinguished contribution of individuals to sport or their sporting organisation through long and outstanding service. The three winners exemplify the spirit of volunteerism, going above and beyond to support the growth and success in their sport and in the spirit of May Campbell whom the medal is named after, have all made wide-reaching contributions for the benefit of those enjoying the sport in the WA community.
Jan Cooper (Australian Rules Football)
Would there be and AFLW competition without the influence of Jan Cooper on the game of Australian Rules Football? Her impact has ensured the game now has a pathway for thousands of women and girls to be involved in Aussie Rules throughout WA every weekend of the football season. Cooper became the first female inducted into the WA Football Hall of Fame in 2023 in tribute to her commitment, drive, resilience and undeniable passion to drive opportunities for female leadership and participation.
A skilled exponent of football in her youth, Cooper’s progress was halted with no ongoing pathway for female participation in the game and for a time pursued elite level cricket, volleyball, netball basketball and swimming. But her love of footy never diminished and she returned to the game as a sports trainer with her beloved Swan Districts. Her medical support for the team carried through the premiership three-peat of 1982, ’83 & ’84, and her father and WA Football Hall of Fame member, John Cooper, was Club President at the time.
It was her arrival at the WA Football Commission in the role of Female Football Development Manager that saw Cooper become more determined than ever to make a lasting difference. She established the pathway for female players, coaches and officials to progress in the game through school and community programs and competitions. It included the establishment of All Girls AusKick centres and will this started in WA, her impact on the game resonated through other parts of the country.
The AFL approached Cooper about the role of National Female Development Manager, and her appointed saw the establishment of the current U16s and U18s female programs and talent pathways. Today and with the AFLW now represented by all 18 clubs, Cooper is at the West Coast Eagles in the role of Regional Women and Girls Pathway Manager, having overseen the clubs entry into the AFLW competition.
Tony Ball (Swimming)
After first taking the plunge as a member of the Kwinana Swimming Club in 1972, Tony Ball has maintained his strong connection to the sport both in and out of the pool for more than 50 years. A Life Member of his beloved Kwinana, he served the club as President for 21 years, on top of two years as vice-president, nine years as Treasurer and three years as Club Captain.
But Ball’s involvement also extended to the state level. For 35 years Tony has served Swimming WA, including 27 years as Records Officer when he built a history of results going back up to 45 years. He also played a key role in designing the Recording Sheets now used by all clubs in swimming, and he developed the Swimming WA Qualifying Times to maintain future State Qualifying Times still used to this day.
Ball maintains an active role in the Swimming WA community with incredible dedication. His knowledge is a cornerstone for the swimming community, and he remains a much loved and respected figure within the sport.
With an unparalleled memory for the records of athletes that have come through the Kwinana Club and across the swimming history of WA, Ball has been recognised as Swimming WA’s Volunteer of the Year on four occasions and in 2023 was a recipient of Swimming Australia’s Local Legend Award.
David Neesham (Water Polo)
With over half a century of involvement in the WA Water Polo scene, David Neesham has was involved as a player, coach, referee and administrator at club, state and national level.
With almost 300 games for Australia, Neesham competed at four Olympic Games from 1968 to 1980 and was captain of the team over the final five years of that period.
In 1977 he campaigned strongly for a Water Polo venue in Perth, and in 1979 the Bicton Polo pool became the first custom-built water polo facility in the southern hemisphere. Not satisfied, Neesham led fundraising efforts to see geothermal heating added – the first of its kind at a Perth pool. He established a modified version of the game in the early 1980s, with the concept handed over to Water Polo Australia in 1984 for “FlippaBall” to be rolled out across Australia.
Neesham had two stints as coach of the WA Men, was inaugural WAIS program coach, and coached the Australian Women from 1995 to ’98. Having also coached the Australian Men, he remains the only person to coach both the Men’s and Women’s national teams.
The 2023 WA Sport Awards will be presented on Thursday, 29 February 2024 at HBF Stadium. Tickets are on sale now, purchase your ticket HERE.
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