Kookaburras midfielder Simon Orchard scored a goal and a bronze on the same day at London 2012 as he became the first Olympic medallist from Maitland for more than a decade.
Equestrian Matt Ryan was the last from Maitland to achieve the feat in Sydney 2000 when he collected the third of his Olympic gold medals.
Before that the city had produced a host of representatives including cyclist Olivia Gollan (2004), sailor Robert Thornton (1972) and swimmer Harry Hay (1920).
But it is believed only Ryan and runner Dave Power, who clinched a bronze in the 10,000m at Rome in 1960, have stood on the podium previously representing the Maitland region at Olympic Games.
Orchard has added his name to that list following the Kookaburras’ 3-1 victory against host nation Great Britain in the bronze medal play-off at a packed and parochial Riverbank Arena on Saturday.
And while it might not have been the sort of medal Orchard and the tournament favourites had wanted or expected, it was the best the world’s number one ranked team could do following a 4-2 semi-final loss to eventual Olympic champions Germany on Thursday.
But the disappointment of 48 hours earlier was hard to detect post-match in the Australian men’s hockey team, and the 2008 Maitland Sportsperson of the Year simply soaked in Olympic success.
It was impossible wipe the smile off Orchard’s face and he rated this as the pinnacle of an international career that has already included gold medals at the Commonwealth Games, World Cup and Champions Trophy.
“To win a bonze medal at the Olympics is awesome,” Orchard told the Mercury.
“This is the best of all because the Olympics has always been my ultimate goal and to win a medal representing everyone back home is awesome.”
The 26-year-old gave those at home, and in the crowd, plenty to cheer about when he scored the opening goal of the encounter.
It was a superb strike from the top of the circle in the 17th minute that burst through the keeper’s outstretched glove and into the back of the net to give the Kookaburras an early advantage.
Orchard followed this up with his now trademark Ram celebration, a call out to the mascot of his former club in Maitland, and it was the second time this tournament.
“It was wicked,” Orchard said.
“I’ve had a lot of chances this tournament and I was really glad I knocked it in and scored a goal on such a big occasion.
“I was really pumped and I was able to celebrate with another Ram, which was awesome.”
Overall, it was an impressive showing from Orchard and the Kookaburras in the bronze medal play-off after such a quick turnaround from the semi-final, which they had led 2-1.
“It [the game against Great Britain] was probably one of our more polished displays,” he said.
“We played for 70 minutes, we really ground it out, everyone ran hard, the basics were good and we knocked three goals in.
“We all contributed, I think all the boys were dead set on getting that bronze medal.
“We were obviously really disappointed after that semi-final loss and a few guys had been in that position before so they knew how to deal with it.
“Our coaches and leaders of the group talked about the ability to turn it around and prepare for today’s [Saturday] game.
“We definitely didn’t want to go away with fourth, I think it was a credit to our group and to our coaching staff that we played really well today.
“We didn’t give them any chances and to win a bronze medal, well, I’m over the moon and really, really excited.”
Also on Saturday the Opals, featuring Newcastle pair Suzy Batkovic and Jenni Screen, claimed bronze in the women’s basketball competition after an 83-74 win against Russia.
It was bitter sweet for both the Opals and Kookaburras with both expected to feature in the gold medal matches at the Games of the XXX Olympiad.
However, it extends the successful strike rate of both national teams for medals at successive Olympic Games to five (Opals) and six (Kookaburras).
The Hunter’s golden touch at London 2012 was provided by Wangi Wangi sailors Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen winning the 49er class.