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by Liesel Rennie

Richard Turnbull's career has spanned sporting industries including elite national athletics, surfing, polo cross, hockey and rugby. His expertise has been instrumental in the motivation, sports conditioning and rehabilitation of international sports teams including the South African Men's Hockey Team (Atlanta Olympics), the Women's National Polo Cross Team (Australia 1996), The Natal Rugby Union Team (Currie Cup) and the Springboks Rugby Team (1993).

Reflecting back on his years of coaching and mentoring, Richard recalls many proud moments and achievements, including being appointed as fitness trainer for the Natal Rugby Team during 1990 where the team went on to win their first Currie Cup ever and then again winning in 1992 and 1995. Richard was also the fitness trainer for the Springbok Rugby team during 1993.

But his accolades do not start and end with Rugby. Some of Richard's proudest achievements have been in guiding, mentoring and training distance runners to become capable of competing internationally. His successes have included Matthew Temane, who recorded the fastest time

in history in the half marathon in 1987. Willi Mtolo who ran the 8th fastest marathon time ever during the 1988 South African Marathon and later going on to win the New York Marathon.

This is a man who is clearly dedicated to the success and fitness of his athletes. Richard was a revered personality in the biokinetic field in South Africa.

But in 1993 during the Springbok's tour of Australia, Richard visited the town of Orange in NSW and knew this was his future. As well as “offering a wider range of study and career opportunities for my children and a safer environment for my family”, he can recount the exact moment when he looked at Orange as the perfect place to raise his family and he was also “keen to learn about the sporting system in Australia, which at the time was one of the best in the world.”

Making the decision in 1997 to leave his beloved homeland and prospering career, the Turnbull family were ready to leave South Africa. Saying goodbye to a close knit family and friends was difficult, but the biggest obstacle to face the Turnbull family was yet to come. Four weeks prior to leaving Natal, they discovered that Gale, Richard's wife had kidney cancer.

Richard recalls, “It was just by chance, having no symptoms that she was found to have kidney cancer. She had a radical surgery and we flew to Australia three weeks later. With no family or friends to lean on for support in a new country and then a long wait every three months for test results to be revealed.”

Through strong will and determination to make a fresh start in a democratically-free nation as well the friendship and kindness of local people when their furniture was delayed, the Turnbull's got through their first few weeks.

Gale is now healthy and strong and hard work and persistence has paid off for the whole family, “my business has grown, my two eldest children have graduated from university and our youngest daughter is completing her final year 12 and Gale is managing the Blood bank for Orange and outer districts.”

Since their arrival in Orange, Richard has entrenched himself in the city's sporting community.

In 1997 he became the trainer for the NSW Country Cockatoos and was technical coach in the Kinross Wolaroi School's rugby union program. He then took charge of the Orange Emus first grade team in 1999, which proved to be a very successful period in the Club's history.

This former Natal native has become a valued and highly respected figure in his adopted community. During 2000 and 2001 he was elected and served as Vice President (Exercise Rehabilitation) on the National Board of the Australian Association for Exercise and Sport Science.

He was also voted the Sports Personality of the Year at Orange's Australia Day awards in 2002. “It was an honor to receive the award and I guess it is always nice to get some recognition or to be rewarded for the effort one puts into one's work”.

Living in Orange has presented Richard many opportunities and his passion and dedication to sports conditioning and rehabilitation has allowed his business, Body Dynamics Exercise and Sports Physiology to set a standard in Exercise and Sports Physiology. His business focuses on exercise rehabilitation for clients who present with a number of medical problems and specializes in corporate health consulting to some of the largest companies in the area.

Richard has been offered jobs in Sydney with Wurringah and Northern Suburbs as head coach, but has turned them down, describing himself as a country bumpkin, he said “I turned them down because I run my business and I don't want to love in Sydney.”

Today, Richard acts as a consultant coach to both the Kinross Wolaroi School and the Orange Emu coaches. He is also spending more time coaching a group of four young athletes. They all represented NSW in Cross Country last year and one of them, Veronica Wallington placed third in the Junior World Mountain Road Running Championships in Switzerland.

Preferring to focus his efforts on his business and taking a more consulting role within the sporting and corporate worlds, Richard explains, “My family will always be my number one priority.”

Richard is looking to slow down in life and have more downtime to spend with his family. But don't expect him to abandon the sporting fields of his adopted home, Orange. He still has a desire and passion to help athletes and individuals achieve great things.

The Orange Sporting Community should feel proud and grateful for the dedication and passion of this ex-Southern African sporting great!
Richard's Thoughts About …
Sports Today
It is nice to see that sportspeople are given the opportunity to become professionals and are compensated for their genetic talents as well as hard work. They are no different to other entertainers such as film stars or musicians. The downside of professional sport is that loyalty does not always exist and that sport has become politicised where many individuals tend to look after their own interests.
The differences between sport in Australia and sport in South Africa
Politics finds itself in all sport and within all countries but in Australia the pathway to the top appears less political. Australia offers a better working relationship between Sports Scientists, Coaches and Administrators which does not appear to be the case in South Africa. Australia have a greater number of well qualified Sports Scientists and they are well utilised.
The accreditation process in Australia is also better structured and organised than it is in South Africa and coaches in Australia have to earn and prove their coaching prowess. Australia also supports a wider variety of sports and this is why they perform well at international competition. South Africa appears to have a tendency to favor Soccer, Rugby Union and Cricket and all the other sports tend to suffer.
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Posted by Liesel Rennie
13 Jun 2008

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