Officials form an integral part of the Australian Surf Life Saving Championships; without the hundreds of officials the Championships would simply not happen. Women have been recognised in Surf lifesaving for 40 years, but there is one Female Official who has been involved a lot longer than that.
Vonnie Tallon, wife of the late Surf Life Saving Australia Life Member Ron Tallon, recalls the early years of attending the Aussies.
“My first Aussies must have been 57 years ago our oldest son Brad was three,” Tallon said.
“I was the first female to get an award in Queensland, gaining a Resuscitation Certificate in the early years, about 50 years ago when Ron was involved in the R&R he asked me if I could help out with the paperwork and it just went from there – I haven’t missed an Aussies since!”
As a recorder, Tallon has recorded across all age groups giving her a different perspective to other officials, allowing her to really get to know the competitors and spend plenty of time with them.
“I started recording in the Under 15s area and ended up in Opens. I see competitors when they start as juniors and I still see them as Masters. I have got to know so many beautiful people,” she said.
“A few that have stood out to me are; Trevor Hendy he is one of the nicest people I have ever met, others include Mark Bennetts from Southport and the Mercer brothers.”
Reflecting on what the Aussies means to her, Vonnie echoed the thoughts of many that Surf Lifesaving produces some very special people and the Aussies display all that is great about Surf Lifesaving.
“The Aussies is an amazing obsession once it gets in the blood, it is great to see what Surf Lifesaving produces in people, not just competitors,” Tallon said.
“They all give back and do something for other people and the Aussies is a reward for them, everyone has the same interest it doesn’t matter what job they have.”
“I have worked with some amazing officials over the years, three that immediately come to mind are John Brennan, I have known him since he was a little kid, Caroline Wilson from WA, she’s fantastic company and great at her job, and Heather Thompson – but there are a million great people I could name.”
The event that Vonnie looks forward to the most at Aussies is the Taplin Relay, she said she has seen some superhuman efforts over the years.
“The stand out event for me is always the Taplin Relay. I have seen many unbelievable efforts with one being Shannon Eckstein in a Taplin Relay going in second last to a swim leg and coming out first. You just couldn’t believe that someone could swim that fast.”
“March Past was also an unbelievable spectacle; I still officiate the Champion Lifesaver and Patrol Competition. It is great to see the competitors on show that are key patrolling Lifesavers.”