At 92, Sydney Hulls is still on active duty with SJA

Sydney Hulls, second right, shares some membories with old friends and colleagues Jon Ryan (standing), John Jackson and (right) Patrick Collins, the SJA President
Sydney Hulls, second right, the Association’s longest-standing member, shares some memories with old friends and colleagues Jon Ryan (standing), John Jackson and (right) Patrick Collins, the SJA President

VIEW FROM THE PRESS BOX: A surprise and most welcome visitor flew in to steal the show at the SJA’s annual meeting. By STEVEN DOWNES

It would be wrong, of course, to under-estimate the gravity and importance of the Association’s 2016 annual meeting.

But it is fair to say that the highlight of this year’s formalities, staged at lunchtime yesterday at the Old Cock Tavern on Fleet Street, close to where the Association took its first breath, and drink, some 68 years ago was somewhat unexpected.

It was not the fine welcome afforded to the gathering by our President, Patrick Collins. Nor was it the excellent annual report (which we published online last week and you can read here) delivered by our outgoing chairman, David Walker, after three very successful years.

It is fair to say that the show-stealer was the unheralded arrival , just in time for the meeting, of Sydney Hulls.

Hulls will be 93 next birthday. He has been a member of the Association since 1948, the year it was formed – when it was known as the Sports Writers’ Association. The son of the founder of Boxing News, Hulls was just embarking on his sports writing career after serving in the war, where as a radio operator in the British 1st Airborne Division he flew into Arnhem by glider in 1944.

After that, covering athletics and boxing must have been a doddle. Hulls served on our committee for 19 years, including a year as secretary, another as its chair, and he was treasurer for a decade. He also found time to chair the Boxing Writers’ Club and be active with the equivalent Athletics Writers’ Association during a career covering both sports for the Daily Express that spanned 33 years to his retirement in 1986.

Hulls certainly appeared to enjoy the 2016 SJA meeting, catching up with former colleagues, and the buffet lunch wwhich was laid on for the 30 or so members attending. And he even survived some old-school press box leg-pulling.

The SJA’s nonegenarian arrived in good shape at the top of the two flights of steep stairs to the function room of the old pub where the annual meeting was to be held. Once there, our longest standing member asked where he could get a drink. “Downstairs, Sydney,” was the cruel reply.

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Rest assured that the unnamed SJA member then did the decent thing, and scuttled off to the bar on Hulls’ behalf.

Once the formal part of the meeting was conducted, and lunch served, Hulls was the centre of attention for many of his old friends and former colleagues, who included formidable news gatherers of the past such as John Jackson, Morley Myers and Barry Newcombe, no longer our “immediate past chairman”, who was attending his first meeting since a spell of hospital treatment.

Newcombe was one of four members awarded honorary membership at the meeting, the others being Tom Clarke and Brendan Monks, who are standing down after three years chairing our writing and photography awards judges, and Caroline Searle, a long-time member who has readily helped our members in her various roles as press chief for the BOA, England’s Commonwealth Games teams and for British Rowing.

The business of the meeting was conducted briskly, with the treasurer’s report and audited accounts from Sarah Juggins accepted unanimously, while the officers were elected unopposed and a new committee was elected after a ballot of those attending.

The 2016-2017 SJA officers and committee are:

President: Patrick Collins
Chair: Andy Elliott
Deputy chair: Janine Self
Treasurer: Sarah Juggins
Secretary: Steven Downes
Committee: Phillip Barker; Mary Fitzhenry; Tom Knight; Randall Northam; Vikki Orvice; Steve Rose; Jon Ryan; Howard Wheatcroft.

Ex-officio: David Walker (immediate past chairman), Barry Newcombe (AIPS exec member), Keith Elliott (training).

Mary Fitzhenry has agreed to chair the awards sub-committee for the coming year. Further appointments being considered by the officers and committee, including the chairs of the awards judges, will be announced in due course.