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Obituary: Coach Bernie Wakefield

Aug 25, 2000  - Paul Quinlan

Susan O'Neill's coach of twelve years, from the age of nine to twenty one passed away on Saturday 19 August following a fight with cancer.

A fighter to the end, Coach Bernie Wakefield, signed himself out of hospital twice in the last few weeks. Once to carry the flame in the 2000 Olympic Torch Relay and on another occasion to attend his Testimonial Dinner at the Wynnum Golf Club near his place of birth, and where he was honoured by one hundred and fifty coaches, present and past club members, swimming officials and friends.

Bernie enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) at 21 years of age (1951) and served in the Malaysia and Vietnam campaigns. After twenty one years of service he retired from to RAAF to return to his home town of Brisbane where he became involved in teaching and coaching swimming, an activity he had taken up while in Malaysia.

Coach Wakefield was engaged as the head coach of the Acacia Swim Club in 1972, a position he held until retirement thirty eight years later (1972-2000); a period in which he had an enviable record as of one of Australia's all time best coaches.

Bernie's achievements included:
taking his proud Acacia Club to
- 514 Queensland Championships (over 1000 medals in total)
- 49 National Age gold medals (146 medals in total)
- 50 National Open gold medals (87 medals in total
- 10 Australian representatives, including 3 Olympians Susan O'Neill, Scott Logan and Caroline Hildreth

He was voted to coach on the national team at:
- the 1992 Olympics (Barcelona)
- the 1993 Pan Pac Championships
- the 1994 Commonwealth Games, Victoria, Canada

A member of the Australian and World Swimming Coaches Associations, Coach Wakefield was a prolific contributor to the association magazines with challenging and informative papers based on his own unique coaching skills and methods. He has left a great legacy for others to follow.

His club continues under the leadership of new Head Coach, Darren Tullberg, who was appointed to this position in July 2000 and who is committed to continuing Bernie's work.

Bernie is survived by his wife Trish, daughters Jackie and Denise and grandson Terry.