Hanging up the stick: Departing stalwart Rodney ‘Rocket’ Johnson reflects on long association with the UGSHA
A larger-than-life character with a passion for community sport, Rodney ‘Rocket’ Johnson will step aside from his role as Upper Great Southern Hockey Association hockey development officer later this year after nearly two decades of service.
“I came to Narrogin as a greens keeper in ‘91 and I started playing hockey in ‘92,” he said.
“I was playing for Warriors and then I took on coaching and a bit of umpiring. When the development officer role came up I thought that’s it, it’s time for a change.”
It’s hard to imagine a UGSHA match day without seeing Johnson keeping record as a gaggle of enthusiastic children follow him around.
“I’ll miss parts of the job, I know that for a fact,” he said.
“I’m not leaving Narrogin, I’m involved in basketball and I’m involved in 8 ball and I’m buying a house here.
“It’s a nice town, all my sport is here and I love my sport, I’m what they call a sports fanatic.”
One of the highlights of his role with the association has been watching young athletes develop.
“There are three generations of some families I’ve been involved with which means I’ve been here for too damn long,” Johnson said laughing.
“I had a joke with one girl, I told her ‘I see so much of your grandmother in you’, she looked at me and said ‘I’m not that old’, I said yes, but the way you play is exactly the way your grandmother played.”
Being part of the UGSHA community and seeing families come together to play has also been a special experience.
“I try to encourage it,” Johson said.
“Dads and mums playing one or two games a year so that they can play with their kids.”
Other highlights have included seeing the UGSHA host two international games in Narrogin and being a part of the sporting journey of talented players such as Hockeyroo Penny Squibb.
“I coached Penny when she was 12 and 13 years old in a regional competition,” Johnson said.
“I’ve known Penny for a long time and have gone through the ups and downs of her career with her.
“The junior carnivals have been great, those relationships and the feel of community, those are the things I’ll miss.”
Johnson will take some time out after stepping away to consider what he does next.
“I’ve always had outdoor jobs,” he said.
“I don’t know that I could survive doing an indoor job.
“I might coach, I might not, I don’t know — I’ll see how I feel.”
One thing that won’t change is Johnson’s passion for community sport.
“Get out there and play,” he said.
“Get involved with sport in any way you can, playing, volunteering, it’s a great way to meet people.
“If you look at hockey, we have farmers, doctors, nurses, school teachers, mechanics, we have everyone.
“Male, female, young, old — you’ll make connections.”
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