NSWRL Regional Volunteer of the Year award winner for Central Sydney, John Critchley, is so dedicated to his Junior Rugby League club Five Dock RSL that he juggles his role as President with collecting cans and bottles from his local RSL to assist with fundraising.
Having moved to Australia from England when he was six-years-old, Critchley played Rugby League in the Parramatta district before turning his attention to Five Dock RSL, which he joined in 1988.
Now into his 34th year with the club, Critchley shows no signs of slowing down. Not only is he the President who assists with fundraising by collecting cans and bottles, he also runs the canteen, coaches the Under 6s and distributes flyers throughout the area.
“I think I have been a volunteer all of my life, I think I have always been a volunteer, but Rugby League is a passion that I have,” Critchley said.
“And I do get more enjoyment out of one hour on a Sunday to watch my kids play and be there with them rather than sit down and watch 80 minutes of a football game on television.”
Critchley still gets a buzz out of bumping into children he used to coach who have now grown up.
“Some of the 6-year-olds I had at the beginning are walking along the streets with their own kids in their arms and they recognize me,” Critchley said.
“They’re bringing their kids along now and they’re the important moments that they recognise that they had a good time and they come back to where it started for them and they want their kids to have the same experience.
“They become part of your club, it’s a family club and they grow with you so I get enjoyment out of not just seeing the kids being happy but seeing the parents being happy and that they say to you ‘we will be back next year.’
“That means that you have achieved something, so I guess that is what drives me because people keep coming back.”
Speaking of the challenges that he faces Critchley said one of them is convincing the Mums that the sport is safe and fun for kids of all ages.
“I don’t let parents stand around, I probably have sometimes three mums on the tackling bags as well as occasionally the dads, but the mums get involved with it and they can actually connect,” Critchley said.
“Their outlook on sport and discipline is completely different. The dads just wants to see them tackle like an NRL player whereas the mums realise there is a skill involved and you have to start from the beginning.”
Critchley has an extensive list of achievements in his role as a volunteer, but the Executive committee believe that no award truly reflects the dedication he displays every season.
“We will never see another JC in our lifetime,” said club member Joseph Dougal, who nominated Critchley for the award.”