As a result of an article written by Basil Worner in the November (1984) issue of 'The Sports Coach magazine', the late Tony Dunkerely read of my appointment as the Australian cricket team chaplain. In his capacity as the Australian Joey's Assistant Coach and the Victorian Soccer Under 21 Head Coach, Tony contacted me.
It was this initial contact that set in train a broader ministry to Christian athletes from a position that was welcoming, and across the various theological boundaries that normally brings an unspoken spirit of antipathy.
I travelled to Melbourne to meet Tony Dunkerley. His joy of the Lord and indulgent spirit of God's generosity overwhelmed me with delight that the Lord had bought to me one with whom there was no guile.
Having been thoroughly honoured and encouraged by Tony Dunkerley, I sought the Lord to bring together a group of Christian athletes and coaches who could engender a spirit of optimistic hope; and specifically one who might disciple such people.
Sydney's Rainer Ratinac filled this later role with great decorum and care. A former Australian Squash player and one who had been on the USA professional circuit and studying at Bible college, he initiated an elite athlete discipling ministry.
Rainer was subsequently interviewed by Dr Gordon Moyes AC on the Wesley Mission's nationally televised Easter morning Sunday 1987 service (Channel 7). On that show, Gordon also interviewed Jeanine Treharne, the champion yachtswoman whose husband Hugh was the tactician on Australia II that won the America's Cup in 1983.
Christian athletes, some whom he knew, many whom he did not know, made themselves known to me and so this ministry developed and expanded into new areas such as outreach functions, for example, Nights of Champions.
In those early years I established the 'Athletes' Chronicle' which was a monthly four-page magazine of Christian athletes' testimonies. This uncomplicated publication drew together athletes, chaplains and supporters; its reach was phenomenal. Its simplicity was its hallmark, as it was kept user-friendly.
Some contributors were high-profile athletes experienced in the art of the Christian media interview, and some of these were very competent in various areas of the media.
These Christian athletes included Jeanine Treharne and Tony Dunkerley, Manly Rugby League star Ian Barkley, Olympic gold medallist yachtsman the late John Shaw, national rodeo judge John Skinner, weightlifter George Capsis, Olympic waterpolo captain Richard Pengelly, wrestler John Gray, swimmer Angela Harris, canoeist Jonathon Mayne and so many others.
Richard Pengelly published the Christian athlete creed titled, "Ten Common Questions for Christian Athletes," which were also published in my 1994 book detailing the sports ministry story, 'No Orchestra, No Trumpet'. Richard's theological and practical approach to conducting oneself as an athlete who follows the Lord Jesus Christ is inspirational for all those involved in international sports ministry.
I interviewed Richard Pengelly for the Australian Missionary News IPTV and this can be viewed here
The miracles of Christian athletes was that they identified as Christians and were so delighted that chaplains were being appointed to professional sports across the nation. It bred much confidence in their Christian faith. In 1992 we held in Melbourne a specific national conference for Christian athletes with Ron Ross as key note speaker.
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children. Dr Tronson writes a daily article for Christian Today Australia (since 2008) and in November 2016 established Christian Today New Zealand.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html