The Orange hockey community and wider sporting communities are in a state of mourning after losing a legend of the game in Val Gregory earlier this week, the 76-year-old died suddenly on Monday evening surrounded by family.
Few people contributed as much to hockey in the colour city as Gregory did in her 64 years of involvement, and tributes came thick and fast from all corners after news of her death filtered through.
Gregory, who was also a golfing enthusiast and a founding and life member of the Orange Eight Day Games as well, was involved in hockey as a player, coach, volunteer, administrator and supporter from 1954 onward and was a life member of Canobolas Hockey Club, Orange Junior Hockey Association, Orange Women’s Hockey Association and Orange Hockey Incorporate too.
She was also a winner of Orange City Council’s Australia Day Sporting Personality of the Year, in 1985, and was presented with Rotary’s Community Sporting Award in 1993. Testament to her giving nature and passion for the sport, she donated the $3000 she won from the latter to fund a new grandstand at Orange Hockey Centre.
“Val was an amazing lady, I think we all thought she’d be around forever,” former Canobolas president Tammy Wilson said, Gregory and Wilson’s aunt June Graham were both founders of the club.
“She was tough, she was always there to help anyone and everyone and had such a huge impact on hockey and sport in general, she loved her golf as well.
“I took over as president of Canobolas after my aunty June passed away in 2012 and Val was there to help me, and show me the ropes. She did that for everyone, she was always there to help or mentor people when they needed it.
“We’ll all miss her dearly.”
Gregory played in and for the colour city for decades and coached and managed club, school and representative sides at just about every level imaginable as well, but more recently turned a lot of her attention to Orange’s masters program.
Each year she almost single-handedly organised four women’s masters sides to contest the state championships, which inevitably seemed to end in a title being brought back to Orange.
“It’ll be a sad year for the players that go away for masters without Val there, telling us to put our collars down and tuck our shirts in,” Wilson said.
“She always used to tell us to put our collars down and tuck in our shirts, it was just one of her things. A few players would always stir her of course, the rebels, by putting their collars up or untucking their shirts.”
A service to celebrate Gregory’s life will be held at Orange’s Wesley Uniting Church on Tuesday, April 3, from 1pm. Players, past and present, who wish to pay tribute by wearing an Orange masters shirt are asked to assemble at 12.30pm, Lorraine Corby will have shirts.
Collars down and shirts tucked in, of course.
Players, if they’d like to do so, are also encouraged to wear club or representative gear.