On November 9 and 10 the Zanker family made history, fielding two hockey teams comprised entirely of family members in the South West Games, hosted by Portland Hockey Club.
During the past couple of years the Zanker siblings joked that we could nearly fill a hockey team, but the time came that we actually could with enough kids the right age to fill a team with no additions necessary.
So, 50 out of 54 family members travelled to Portland for a weekend of family and hockey. Just because we could.
The Senior team was represented by all six 'Zanker' families, in each team: Matthew Zanker, Stephen Zanker, Sharon Williams, Joanne Pedie, Heidi White and Rachel Clark.
Mum and dad Zanker (Naomi and Daryl) were of course there to cheer us all on, still young and spritely in their 70s. Married for 48 years, they have six children and 34 grand children.
The Senior mixed team included one member drawn out of a 15-year hockey retirement, one who hasn't played for four years, one who hasn't played goalie for a few years, one who has never played a proper hockey match and one with a young baby.
There were siblings, in-laws, nieces and nephews, and of course some of those are cousins and a couple of mother/daughter combos. With a maximum list of 15 players, there were several of our capable juniors disappointed to not have a place!
After a few changes of line-up, in the end we had only senior players playing in the senior comp, which meant no double-ups.
Without really knowing what the level of competition would be like, our aim was to have fun and just give everyone a bit of a run, just for the novelty of it.
However, being a somewhat competitive family we were pretty chuffed to come away with the silver medal and felt like we really earned it after defeating both teams on the way to the final.
Open games were 4 x 12-minute quarters, which was a first for us. With half of our senior team 40 years-plus the slower pace of the grass fields suited our style.
Not so much appreciated was the almost-gale force 'sea breeze' on Saturday, but this did not deter spirits.
The U15 mixed team was made up of 14 kids also representing all six Zanker families, some siblings and first cousins playing 2 x 12-minute halves, in whirlwind games.
Half of the U15 team are actually U12, but they are used to playing in an U16 competition, so they held their own well against some bigger boys and organised teams including the South West Eagles, who had a large number of players from their JSC zone contingent.
The rule of at least three females on the field at any time was easy for us, with about half and half, compared to several junior teams predominantly comprising male players.
Even though the Zankers U15s came fifth, we drew with the eventual winners, and was the only team to take any points from the South West Eagles premiership team who defeated the Misfits on strokes in the final.
In their pool 1 matches the Zanker U15s had a draw, a win and a close loss, before winning their playoff match.
Two of our other younger U12s also filled in the Portland U12 team and enjoyed a good run. Connor filled in for Portland 2 senior team just before our final.
Zankers all wore specially-named deep purple shirts which is Naomi's favourite colour, and she often quotes a poem "When I am old I shall wear purple".
To avoid double-ups in playing numbers and anybody missing out on their preference, we came up with a number allocation system; an addition list.
Numbers were allocated according to when you were added to the family. Daryl (Pa) number one, Naomi (Nan) number two, first born Matt number three, down to Rachel at number eight.
Then came the first to marry into the family Willow at number nine, followed by the next addition the first born grand child, Haley, number 10 and so on to the start of the next generation of married additions and babies, with the final number 54 (for now!).
We are incredibly blessed to have such a large family who love to get together and love their hockey.
This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get all six original siblings on the field at once and it was too good an opportunity to pass it up!
We've had four sisters play in the one team once or twice for Yanac Women back in 1997, but never all six kids.
With this being an open competition and fairly relaxed it was the perfect time, with just the right number of nieces and nephews and spouses to fill the full complement of players, with no outside additions necessary.
There was some chatter around the fields of this 'Zankers' team being 'all the one family, all related' as other teams tried to work out where we came from, which we found quite amusing.
For us it just added to the whole novelty of the weekend and helped create a fun atmosphere for the whole tournament.
And you couldn't miss the specially-named purple shirts! A medium royalish dark purple and the ZANKERS name across the back, with nicknames on the front.
Organising these was a trick in itself, and they made it easy to spot family across the way, especially helpful with so many small kids!
Organisation of the weekend was a joint effort, as are most of our family events.
Everyone brings something to the table; coordination, coaching (everybody puts their two-bits in for that one, of course), umpiring, managing, photography, house booking, meals, uniforms, goalie gear and masks (thanks KHC!), etc, as well as managing each one's own young family.
Thanks to Portland HC for hosting the weekend, putting on a great spread, lending us a gazebo, good facilities, supplying umpires on our behalf, and generally making us feel welcome and embracing our silly family fun.
This was a fairly special weekend, one for the history books for us. To have all six of our Zanker kids play on the field together was fantastic.
Probably never to be repeated, so definitely a moment to treasure. Super special to have so many family members to share it all with.
The kids all relished the chance to play with all cousins/family, instead of often against them, too. And, of course, we love our hockey.
In Wimmera Hockey Association the 'Zankers' are spread across three clubs (a fourth as a dual member in 2019), making up around 10 per cent of the association.
There are several of the Williams clan who play in South Australia and an occasional game in WHA.