Aged 85, Don Allen was preparing for his 50th year officiating with Athletics NSW, when he sadly passed away this week.
A stalwart of athletics in NSW, Don was a fixture on the high jump fan at athletics meets since he first commenced officiating in 1968 at ES Marks Athletics Field.
In the ‘90s he listed high jumpers Katrina and David Morrow as two of his favourite athletes he saw compete. An undoubted highlight in later years for Don was officiating alongside them when they joined the officials ranks in 2012.
Born on the 16 August 1932, Don was a talented sprinter in his teens, competing for Randwick Kensington club for five years from 1948 to 1953 where he ran on the old grass track at Henson Park. He recalled his highlights.
“Becoming a finalist in the 100 and 220 yards at the NSW All Schools in 1949 and a third place at the NSW relays championships with the club’s under-19 4 x 220 yards team,” said Allen in an interview in 1999. His best times were 10.8 and 23.5 seconds.
Although only in his teens he was already revealing an interest in administration, as the club’s assistant secretary for three years. But he retired from athletics before he was 21.
“I was sent to the far north coast of NSW as a teacher.”
Country appointments were common for first year teachers in that era, however, he remained active in sports during this period, as secretary of Mullumbimby and Tweed Heads District Hockey Associations.
Upon his returned to Sydney, between 1959 and 1963 he coached athletics at Leichhardt and Orange Grove primary schools. After 11 years of teaching, his work career took a different direction when he became an Industrial Relations Officer for the next 31 years of his working life.
A few years later, in 1968 and now aged 35, he made a return to athletics, where he would remain for nearly 50 years. He joined Balmain Athletics club and was a key club official for 30 years holding the positions of secretary, vice president and an unbroken stint as president for 23 years.
He immediately started officiating and within five years had officiated at the Australian Championships in 1973. He received his first international appointment in 1996, at the IAAF World Junior Championships and that continued to the Sydney Olympics and Paralympic Games in 2000.
During those 50 years, he has witnessed some wonderful performances, he recalled one highlight: “Being present when Emma George set a pole vault world record in Sydney.”
His favourite athletes? Melbourne 1956 Olympians Betty Cuthbert and Shirley Strickland; decathletes Peter Denton, Peter Hadfield and Clay Tompkins; pole vaulters Gavin Vernon and Peter Herd; Olympic sprinter in the ‘40s and ‘50s John Treloar and high jumpers Gordon Windeyer, Katrina and David Morrow.
His personal highlights? “Officiating at my first Australian Championships in 1973, being awarded life membership, international competitions - 1996 world juniors, and 2000 Olympics and Paralympics and the friendships made as a competitor and as an official.”
Don was unquestionably one of the friendliest officials Athletics NSW had the good fortune to have in their ranks as noted by some of his colleagues. “Always a respected official, committed to his task. We always chatted whenever our paths crossed,” noted John Morris.
“Will miss his friendly smile which lit up his whole face when he saw you in the officials' room - he always talked to me and was very helpful and supportive. RIP, Don,” Susan Newton wrote.
Just what attracted Don Allen to become an official all those years ago? “To help the sport of athletics from which as a competitor I had enjoyed immensely.”
Don was recognised for his enormous contribution to athletics in NSW with a merit award in 1982 and life membership in the ‘90s. In 2008 he received a Platinum Service award from Athletics Australia for 40 years service.
Former Athletics NSW Competition Manager, Brent Hayward, who interacted significantly with Don over the last decade encapsulated the type of person he was.
“Very sad news. I admired his giving nature and genuine interest in others. He would always come seek me out whenever he was at athletics to say hello, ask me how Frankie was going, and without fail, give me a bit of stick for being a kiwi. RIP Don, you will be missed by many.”
The Athletics Australia Board, Athletics NSW Board, staff and members send their condolences to Don’s wife Valda and his daughter Monica. Rest in peace Don Allen.The
David Tarbotton and Ron Bendall for Athletics NSW