Sports

Dick Telford was a star cricket coach before running

Dick Telford has always loved sport but how he got hooked on running – before he trained world champions and Olympians – is a cracking story.

Telford was a talented cricketer and coached Victoria to consecutive Sheffield Shield titles just before he arrived in Canberra to run the sports science department at the newly-established AIS in 1981.

Coach: Dick Telford in action at University of Canberra.

Coach: Dick Telford in action at University of Canberra.Credit:Karleen Minney

When Shield games were getting too tight and Telford couldn't handle the nerves he'd leave the stadium and go for a run to relieve the stress.

His players thought it was hilarious but those runs around the MCG, GABBA, SCG, WACA and Adelaide Oval planted the seed of a legacy.

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Telford signed a 12-month contract when he arrived at the AIS but 37 years later he's still in the capital and this month will be inducted into the ACT Sports Hall of Fame as an associate member.

Telford was a handy footballer who played one game for Collingwood and while he excelled at several sports, it was middle-distance running which made him a coach of international acclaim.

"I've never actually applied for a job, they all seem to have come to me," Telford said.

"I was asked to kick off the philosophy of sports science and sports medicine at the AIS for a small contingent of administrators and coaches.

"It was a little bit daunting in those days because nothing like that had been done before and there were no references, it was an interesting but enjoyable task.

"I was keen on running towards the end of my [cricket] coaching career. Sometimes watching cricket when the pressure got too much Id go out for a run, the boys thought that was hilarious.

"When I got to the AIS the second person I employed, which made a staff of three in sports science, was a young runner with a biophysics degree, and that was Rob de Castella.

"He was my first technician and we ran the lab. Eight sports, 16 coaches and half a dozen administrators before the sports commission came onto the campus."

Telford soon found himself on television commercials with the best athletes in Australia after Kellogs commissioned the AIS to develop the cereal Sustain.

The cereal box at one point had Telford's face on it and it still exists. A cut of sales go to AIS scholarships but whoever approved the contract made an administrative error and agreed to two cents instead of two per cent.

Telford emphasised there were countless highlights but said there were some particularly special memories from his coaching career at the AIS.

"I coached Lisa Martin, the only marathon medal Australia has ever won, which was a terrific highlight," Telford said.

"Michael Shelley is my most-recent gold medallist in the Commonwealth Games and that was the second hed won consecutively, and he had a silver before that.

"Michael would have to go in the history books as one of the most consistent athletes I've ever coached. Lisa Weightman won a few Comm Games medals.

"It was also very satisfying when Andrew Lloyd won gold in Auckland (500 metres) beating the 10,000m and 5000m world champions at the time, that was incredible."

Telford is a professorial fellow at the University of Canberra and led the LOOK study which found evidence that physical education improves the health and academic outcomes of school students.

His work in athletics is already recognised in the Australian Hall of Fame but Telford said it was great to be part of history where he calls home.

"It's very nice and terrific to be recognised by peers, that's the best part. Canberra is my home and it's just great to receive this reward," Telford said.

Eamonn Tiernan is a sports reporter with The Canberra Times