Humble, dedicated, polite, talented, hard-working, strong; these are all qualities that spring to mind when we speak and think of Joel Hawkins.
Respected by the Mornington Cycling Club, Caulfield/Carnegie, the Redhill Riders, HPV teammates (Dromana Secondary College), Cycling Victoria, the U19’s he raced against and by his state representative teammates. But more than this, Joel was – and continues to be – truly and completely loved by his biggest fans; his friends and family.
His talent in the saddle came as no surprise heralding from such a sporting family: Kane, gifted with ball sports talent; Les, a terrific footballer and Liza a fierce netballer. Although it was not completely unheard of for Joel to get Kane out in the Cobham Court Christmas Eve cricket matches, it was his discovery of bikes that unleashed a raw and extraordinary cycling talent.
The only thing Joel was bad at was his homework – Liza even tried to write it into his training program!
From his early mountain bike and HPV days at Dromana, he gravitated towards the road bike, always guided closely by his dad. The cycling journey started out with a group of Les’ mates on weekends. Before too long this young champ wanted and needed more challenges and Les knew it. Of course, it was just a kind way of saying he had became too strong and too fast for his dad and others. And so, his days with the Mornington Cycling club began, he was only 14 years old.
At first Joel would roll up and sit on the outside of the group needing to be encouraged to join in – such was his shy and understated personality.
Over time, confidence grew and he met many mates, some of who inspired him and probably unbeknown to him, many of whom he inspired, with the pure talent that was growing so rapidly in such a short space of time.
He loved the Saturday group ride and he would talk about it before and after, hoping the club’s best riders would be there to ride hard against. The group would talk about him too – and how bloody strong he was. He was a time-trialling machine, with his times in the Mansfield and Geelong events right up there with the top A-Graders – when he had just turned 17.
Joel was well known for taking his instructions literally so when his coach, Chris Savage, would say “just dawdle home” at the end of a training ride, Joel would do exactly that, going up hills at almost stand still speed.
On one training ride, Les and the group were surprised to see Joel dropped – he was keeping to his heart rate zones. Chris pointed out that Les was disappearing from view at the top of the climb. Joel let out a laugh, put the hammer down and buckled the group for the next two hours.
He would chat in that Joel kind of way about who was strong, who attacked when and where, who held on and who did not. He did so in his considered gentle way with that shy, cheeky grin and a look of satisfaction on his face.
Among the long list of achievements, Joel won bronze for Victoria in the 2014 Cycling Australia U17 National Individual Time Trial Championships (aged 16.)
He had discovered a place where he belonged – a place with friends and where his legs could do the talking.
Safety was always a priority and Joel was pedantic with lights, fluorescent clothing and keeping to cycle lanes where possible. He took all the precautions he could on 17 June 2015, but it wasn’t enough.
Joel fell victim to dangerous driving causing death when the driver of a car failed to give way at an intersection in Dromana, just seven kilometres from his Mount Martha home.
His head injuries were too severe and 11 days later the heart-wrenching decision was made to switch his life support machine off.
No one will ever know the great pain and sadness that Les, Liza and Kane endure every moment of every day. They miss his hugs and kisses, they miss the weekend rituals and they miss his passion, love and support.