You can’t go to a national-level event — whether it’s Youth, Juniors, Seniors or Masters — and not notice the sea of maroon. There’s no denying that Queensland weightlifting is on the up and up. In fact, it has become the driving force behind Australian weightlifting as a whole. Most other states can only watch and wonder: what are those in the Sunshine State doing that allows this maroon juggernaut to continue to dominate?
Brisbane-based coach Angela Wydall explains that “it just comes from passion and excitement about weightlifting … I think we just always focused on the love of weightlifting, and we’re not distracted by other things.”
This idea is widely shared among the Queensland coaches and club owners The Weightlifting Platform spoke to.
Callum Hannay, owner of Burleigh Barbell Club, offered further insight: “The good thing about Queensland is that we are very supportive of each club. Just this weekend I had a couple of lifters come down from Cougars [Weightlifting Club]. They trained with me and I go up to Cougars sometimes.”
Jax Solofa from Ipswich Weightlifting Club explains, “I think it all starts from the top. We have Deb Keelan, she’s been around for a very long time. She’s great at communicating. We hear from Deb once or twice a week about things that are happening within Queensland weightlifting and within the weightlifting community itself.”
Whenever TWP spoke to a coach about the quality and popularity of weightlifting in Queensland, one name kept cropping up: Miles Wydall. Miles has been in the sport for 25 years, and not only is he a great coach, he has had an enormous influence on the culture in Queensland. He has shown the utmost support and selflessness when helping the development of new coaches, athletes and support staff, and this has not gone unnoticed. This kind of active knowledge-sharing is how Queensland’s great weightlifting culture continues to expand and thrive.
From 2012 (the furthest back we have numbers for) the Queensland Weightlifting Association has increased its member base from just over 300, to 675 at its peak in 2016. Today, the association sits close to 600 members. Why is this?
Miles Wydall explains, “Greg Wegret, the previous president, made a very good point: the more clubs you have, the more members you have.” He explains that Queensland deliberately set out to make it relatively cheap and easy to establish a weightlifting club.
This plan has paid off. Queensland now has 28 clubs, while the second highest, NSW, has just 20 clubs.
The barrier is very low for new coaches to set up and run their own club as either a not-for-profit or for-profit club. This has allowed clubs like Burleigh Barbell Club, Ipswitch Weightlifting Club and Whitsundays Weightlifting Club to open up in recent years. The club fee to start your own club is only $100, plus you get access to constant support from experienced coaching and admin staff from across the state. It also only costs clubs an $85 membership fee to become a QWA member, which makes it easy for everyone to compete at any level.
So what about the sea of maroon surging through the warm-up rooms and stands? Well, this is due to QWA “having strong, fair policies and having the guts to stick to them,” explains Miles. One of these policies says that if you want to represent Queensland in a national event, you must wear a Queensland weightlifting suit and T-shirt. Over time, this has developed a culture of unity and state pride.
With these growing numbers over the recent years, they are able to find new and emerging talent and continue to support their top lifters that have been around for years.
Emerging athletes like Jaspa Hope may have never been found if Leanne Knox in the Whitsundays hadn’t been able to reach out and get support to open her own not-for-profit club, Whitsundays Weightlifting. With the continued support and easy access to knowledge from the best coaches in the state, Leanna was able to upskill herself to the point where she is now able to coach Jaspa to have an opportunity to qualify for Junior Oceania Champs at only 17 years old.
This is one example of the selfless, community-minded spirit that has enabled Queensland weightlifting to continue to grow.
The respect and camaraderie surrounding all the coaches we spoke to was inspiring. Bad politics and half-thought-out decisions barely exist, and when they do happen, everyone tends to move on and re-unify to further the sport of weightlifting in their state and the country.
A big thank you to, Miles Wydall, Angela Wydall, Jax Solofa, Callum Hannay and Leanna Knox for speaking to The Weightlifting Platform.