Over the past 33 years of the Noosa Triathlon, literally hundreds of thousands of athletes have met Joy van Zetten but very few, only the Noosa locals, will know her name.
However, over decades, they have all experienced her smile, encouragement, occasional good-natured ribbing and a welcome hosing down, as they power, pound or walk towards the glory of finishing the best triathlon on the planet.
Volunteers are the backbone of our community, Winston Churchill once said, “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give” and for three decades and some, Joy’s giving has been an integral part of the Noosa Triathlon.
Joy’s journey to Noosa started as a youngster growing up in the New Zealand town of Paeroa (of L&P fame) but her independence and desire for travel eventually took her to Sydney, Hong Kong, Germany, England and eventually Melbourne, where five southern winters were too much for her and they headed north.
The family eventually settled in Noosa in 1983 at the same time Noosa locals were introducing a new sport to the community with 180 athletes embarking on the inaugural Noosa Triathlon.
“I wasn’t involved in the very original Noosa Tri. I think I got involved in the third one. Until recently I was a very keen netballer and way back I was very involved with the Noosa Netball Association and the President was involved in the Lions Club. It has been a few years, so after a few of us wracking the brains we have come to the conclusion that common denominator for the involvement of volunteers at the triathlon was the Lions Club.”
“I have done a bit of everything over that 33 years. I am a very community spirited person but I don’t go overboard. I am not a martyr or anything like that. I guess it started with my love of sport. For many years netball did all of the water stations and I used to round up 80 people to man five or six water stations. We did that until the logistics of getting 80 people from one association became impossible.”
“I was on the triathlon committee for many years eventually working with the volunteer’s co-ordinator Ted Irvine and we ended up finding other charity or sporting groups to do the other stations. Netball is still involved but only through my team and half my neighbourhood because I recruited everyone to help out. These days we only do one station,” she said.
Over the decade’s Joy has seen the event grow into the biggest race of its kind in the world and she said thankfully there has been a constant evolution of the early practices and processes.
“It is a massively different event these days to the early days. The very first race I can remember distinctly was walking down from our unit to the Lions Park with a hose and a bucket. I connected up the hose and my job was to dunk the revolting sponges into the water and pass them out to the athletes. The athletes dropped them on the road, so we would pick them and recycle them. We would pick them up, rinse them out and soak them in fresh water again and give them to the next athlete. It was gross and a health hazard so they dumped that idea. Then we went to cups. These days we have more cups than we can poke a stick at but back in those days, they would allocate you six boxes of cups. We were even rinsing those out and recycling them, so luckily there have been a lot of improvements over the years,” she laughed.
This year athletes competing can look out for Joy and her team, manning the water station on the corner of Ravenswood Drive and Noosa Parade, doing what they do best…loving life and offering a helping hand.
“Absolutely I have enjoyed the past 33 years. We curse it on the day because it is hard work and we always finish saying, ‘We may as well run the bloody triathlon ourselves’, with all the mixing, lifting, carrying and handing out but we have made it fun over the years. We enjoy ourselves. We call out silly things and tell the athletes they are doing well and of course, we know a lot of the athletes, so we give them cheek. We just help them through their day.”
For her contribution and devotion, Joy is joining an elite list of other event greats on the Noosa Triathlon Walk of Fame.
“The event is something we should all be proud of, it is a great community thing. I am a bit embarrassed by being inducted into the Walk of Fame, to be honest. It is reserved for the athletes or special people like Garth. I have done it because I like it, not because of the accolades. When I was told about it, it was all going over my head at the time. This is something for Hollywood not for me, Joy from Noosa Heads,” she said.