Ross Erickson Celebrates 50 Years with the Gunners

In 2021, Ross Erickson celebrated his 50th season at La Trobe University Hockey Club. The following is an excerpt from the 2021 Dribble, collated by Life Members Peter Shackleton and Craig Cameron.

Ross Erickson has just completed his 50th winter season with the Gunners. It was not the way he would have liked it to happen, with COVID-19 dictating yet another lockdown-led early closure to the season. At least we had some games, unlike the aborted 2020 season. Ross has played at La Trobe since 1972 and has been witness to many changes in the club and in how hockey is played over his time with La Trobe.

Aged 18 when he joined the club, he was keen to play hockey in a club that was run by students and which had a strong social role to play in a university. It was only five years old at the time, and the students had to make their own entertainment and establish their own traditions.

Ross discovered a club that had been well served by its foundation members who had set strong roots and established a set of traditions, many of which are still with us today. A comprehensive managing Committee headed by a President supported by a Secretary, Treasurer, Social Secretary, Property Manager and a Club Coach set the club structure for many years. The Club had established an annual dinner and presentation night and a range of club awards some of which are still with us today (such as Pullar Shield and the Club Award).

As to hockey, the game, in the first five years, La Trobe Men had risen to A Reserve (today’s Vic League 1). The Club was also a participant in a high number of carnivals (Albury, Swan Hill, Portsea, Albert Park), University Carnivals (the Summer and Winter IVs), the Victorian Finn McNab Cup, and the annual Cinders (La Trobe vs Flinders) Cup. If that was not enough, the Club ran a range of social activities such as drive-in nights and car rallies, and social nights, usually involving the consumption of beverages. Indoor hockey was also popular.

Hockey was played on nominally grass and often muddy fields, with wooden sticks which had a gentle flat curved head, and balls that were often cricket balls painted white. The rules were much different to that of todays. The off-side rule was invoked for any attacker who was wrongly positioned (by an fraction of an inch), sticks could not be lifted above shoulder height and a ball crossing the sidelines was put back into play by the team who didn’t touch it last, by an underarm throw with all other players having to stay inside a line parallel to the sideline until the ball crossed that inner line (Confused? We were as well!). You could defend yourself against a raised ball by stopping it mid-flight and deflecting it vertically down to the ground.

Goalkeepers were in a world of their own. Protection was generally a box, and wicket keepers pads and gloves enhanced with a pair of ‘kickers’. No helmet, face mask, chest, throat or groin protectors, no special sticks!

In his 50 years with the club, Ross played in every position on the field, including three years in goals in the mid 70s. Ross was Secretary twice, Dribble Editor several times, Tackle Editor for many years, Convenor of the Under 12 carnival twice, President of the Sports and Recreation Association (SARA) for a two year term, represented La Trobe at Inter Varsity five times, played in approximately 1,140 games over winter and summer competitions, played in at least 10 premiership sides, lost seven teeth, cracked two ribs as a goalkeeper, fractured two toes and a jaw once and was given a yellow card once.

Best of all, Ross made friends with an unnumbered group of people over the years playing the game he loves. It might not be widely known, that he met his wife to be at a La Trobe game in 1976. He and Jennifer raised three children all of whom have played hockey. He was indeed extremely proud when his son was presented with the Pullar Shield in 2017.

Ross has been a Life Member of the club since 1987 and holds, with pride, the President’s Plate since 2012.

Ross enjoys playing hockey at La Trobe and is thankful that he plays in a club that provides for juniors, seniors and masters and all genders. Although he is now 68 he looks forward to the day La Trobe fields an over 60s team.

In early 2021, Life Members Peter Shackleton and Craig Cameron sat down with Ross to chat about his 50 years at the club:

In honour of the occasion and to celebrate Ross’s generous spirit, in 2021 the club introduced the Erickson Scholarship. This fund creates opportunities each year for four La Trobe students to access hockey and be a  part of this incredible club.

View more of the La Trobe University Hockey Club’s History.