‘Blown away’: Sports volunteer thrilled with recognition
Tony Newman has had a lifelong association with cricket that started in 1978 when he first padded up as an eight-year-old for Gracemere in the junior ranks.
His unwavering service to the game saw him voted Central Queensland's hardest-working sports volunteer in a poll run by The Morning Bulletin.
"I'm blown away," Tony said of the result.
"Realistically there are so many people who do so much in community sport, junior sport and even just within cricket circles.
"I'm so glad that someone put my name forward and people voted for me."
Rockhampton Touch administrator Denise Edwards topped the poll but hers is a paid position, which meant second-placed Tony took the crown.
Denise said she was honoured that people still recognised her contribution and chose to nominate her.
"I would like to congratulate everyone who was nominated," she said.
"I think that, like me, all of them would get real satisfaction out of knowing they're helping people do the things they really enjoy."
Such is the case for Tony, who is president of Gracemere Cricket Club and junior president of Rockhampton Cricket.
He has filled countless roles within the game since he first donned the whites as a youngster, from coach to umpire, canteen convenor to committee member.
He has convened two Queensland under-12 state carnivals in Rockhampton in the past three years, using his holiday leave to deliver the tournaments.
One nomination said Tony "truly defines the word volunteer" and described him as "the lifeblood of Rockhampton junior cricket".
Tony said it was often challenging but it was a labour of love.
"Anyone involved in junior sport does it to see the kids succeed and to help them develop their skills," he said.
"I love seeing kids who come together as strangers and three, four, five years down the track they're best mates.
"That's one of the big things for me - you meet people you might not have met and you develop some incredible friendships."
Tony enjoyed several firsts as a player with Gracemere in the Rockhampton fixtures - he was part of the club's first third grade team in 1990/91, reserve grade team in 1992/93 and their first A-grade team in 1997/98.
When his playing days were over, he turned his focus to the juniors as his three children - Bryce, Olivia and Chayce - got their introduction to the game with Gracemere.
On the urgings of the late Peter Wells, who Tony said was a great friend and mentor, he then decided to take on roles with Rockhampton Cricket.
Tony acknowledged that he was often the public face of a hard-working committee.
"It's not about just one person, it's a group effort and there are plenty of unsung heroes.
"I'm probably more the person who's been seen in the front doing stuff but there's a lot of people behind the scenes doing stuff who don't get recognised for what they do.
"We have some wonderful people involved."
Tony said cricket was a "family thing". His wife Melissa has been an incredible support and worked with him in the canteen each Saturday.
During cricket season, Tony spends Wednesday or Thursday afternoons coaching juniors, Friday afternoons inspecting pitches and checking weather reports, Saturdays in the canteen or umpiring and Sundays co-ordinating junior rep carnivals or ensuring all other fixtures run smoothly.
"Saturdays are very busy and very long but they're very enjoyable," he said.
"It does require time. Sometimes you don't have enough time to do it all but you do everything you can."