It is doubtful, when one assimilates the length and breadth of this remarkable man’s contribution to hockey, whether the likes of him will ever grace the South African hockey scene again.
I have known Brian Edwards since 1970 having played against him in the latter part of his career; been coached by him, as a fellow selector, hockey administrator – you name it – he really has done just about everything in hockey with a level of excellence that is amazing in South Africa’s sporting scene – nowadays awash with plenty of mediocrity. Brian’s contribution to hockey shines like a beacon and dwarfs the considerable efforts of his peers.
Brian was a brilliant tactician and amongst the finest coaches I have ever encountered in World Hockey. The combination in the early 70s of him as coach, Froggy Miot (Manager), Brian Belchers (Captain) and Neville Berman (Vice-Captain) was a management team made in heaven (or forged on Mt. Olympus). These four incredible people complemented one another perfectly and this culminated ultimately in the SA Men’s National Team beating West Germany (the then Olympic Champions) to win the gold medal in the 8 Nations Tournament at The Wanderers in 1974. (By then Neville Berman had replaced Brian Belchers as Captain). Others say that the zenith of his coaching achievements was the 1980 Saints Tour, (really the National Team under the radar in those delicate times).
Brian, was nicknamed Puffy by some of his hockey mates in a time where nicknames were very much part of the ethos. It was a time that, Gary (Hangkas) McLeod, Don (Bags) Perry, Dave (Moose) Ryder and many of his team-mates and opponents were quick to find a nickname to highlight a misdemeanor or characteristic. This nickname was bestowed upon him in the days in which he represented SA Universities and Natal (120 caps) with such distinction between 1959 and 1971.
Between 1963 and 1969 he played for South Africa as a dashing and dangerous inside forward, captaining the team against Spain in 1967. I remember watching the final test at The Wanderers and marveling at his skill and tenacity.
It must have been during his distinguished playing career that his appetite for coaching was sharpened and to add to his stint as SA Men’s Coach he later became SA Women’s Coach between 1991 and 1994 with a notable series victory over England.
His coaching extended to indoor and, when Midlands became a separate hockey province he poured tens of thousands of hours in to coaching provincial men’s and women’s teams from his beloved province for well over 30 years.
Brian has been a pillar of Midlands hockey and, his club, Collegians, fulfilling every conceivable role from Chairman (1953-1997), Executive Member (1998-2016), coach, selector, mentor and advisor. I’m sure he was a benefactor and donor as well.
At Council meetings of the SA Hockey Association you could bet your bottom dollar that at various times the most searching questions would be posed by Brian with his sharp intellect and accounting skills to the fore.
During his illustrious career he received State Presidents Award for meritorious service to sport (twice) and the SAHA Presidents Award in 2003.
It is quite staggering how one man could have given so much to country, province and club for so long and the hallmark of Brian Victor Edwards was the sheer quality of his input.
If the first statue were to be commissioned of a South African Hockey person it would surely be of him – one of the most respected figures in the history of South African Hockey. To his sisters, Janet and Margaret, brother – Doug, his wife Felicity, daughter Debbie, son Gareth and the extended family and friends – we extend our heartfelt condolences.
Rest assured, few have left bigger footprints in the “hockey” sands of time!!