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Regional Volunteer winner 75 years in the making

There’s volunteering, and then there’s volunteering Jack Woolaston-style.

The 97-year-old has been putting in the hours free of charge for over 75 years.

“I’ve been a long time helping people but I love it,” he said.

And among Jack’s admirers is the NSWRL, who have selected him as one the Regional Volunteer of the Year Award winner for Northern Region (there are 11 winners all up from across NSW).

Jack joined the North Tamworth Bears Rugby League Club after moving into town from nearby Somerton, near Gunnedah, for work. His sister lived opposite the football ground.

“I crossed the road and started playing in 1947,” he said.

“I played a bit of football in the Army and then after the war (World War II) I played winger and then they moved me into the second row. Then again, I think I played every position at some stage – if they were short, I’d play there.

“I used to play alongside Norm Young from Canterbury. He played alright too."

Young represented Northern Districts in the early 1950s, after 39 games with the Canterbury Bulldogs (1944-48).

The ground is now called Jack Woolaston Oval. He’s been selling ‘footy doubles’ to games for as long as anyone can remember. And he’s done just about everything else around the joint from setting up junior competitions, to mowing lawns, fixing fences, building infrastructure and working on the club committee.

The club, which has the same strip as the famous red-and-black North Sydney Bears, celebrates its 110th birthday this year – and Jack has been a part of that history for almost 100 years.

The Jack Woolaston Oval is not run or owned by council so Jack set up the ‘Old Boys’ and ‘Old Girls’ networks to do the cleaning and upkeep, pay the rates, and electricity bills. A builder by trade, he’s gone straight to the Mayor’s office to get the construction permits needed.

“I like the challenge of seeing something get done,” he said.

“If people say it can’t be done, or think we’re idiots for trying, that ruffles my feathers.

“I’ve never been beaten in my life. Like I said, I love the challenge.”

His wife Patricia is now in an aged care home and Jack lives nearby in a retirement village unit.

“If we both make it to September we’ll be 71 years married, that’s not a bad innings,” he said.

Jack was nominated for the NSWRL award by North Tamworth Bears Treasurer, Rose Wadwell.

“Jack’s the backbone to country footy,” she said.

“He knows every family, every child. His passion is for all country kids to play footy.”