John Smith used to spend the weekends riding his bike around Newcastle from venue to venue to get his fix of sport.
It was his love of sport and strong belief that you should give back that has seen him volunteer for over 50 years.
Those commitments have included serving time with Newcastle District Bowling Association, Bowls NSW State Match Committee, Kahibah Bowling Club, Newcastle District Cricket Umpires Association and Newcastle Rugby League Referees Association.
Mr Smith was awarded an Order of Australia Medal for his services to sport in the Hunter during the Queen’s Birthday honours list.
“I’ve always listened to sport or watched it,” the Newcastle-raised Smith said.
“I used to ride my bike around Newcastle on Saturday and see what was on. It could’ve been league or union or cricket, and I would watch it.”
Born and bred in New Lambton, his first sports were tennis and “school vacation cricket” and Mr Smith has always been “very sports oriented”.
When he moved to Coonamble as a fresh-faced primary school teacher in his early 20s, he was there just three months before taking on the role as secretary of the district tennis association.
“I just liked being involved,” he said.
When he heard there was a shortage of rugby league referees in the late 60s he took up the whistle because “it wouldn’t be a bad way to see sport”.
It was lawn bowls where he developed a real passion.
Mr Smith, who has been a member of Kahibah Sports Club since 1972, has been the Kahibah singles champion 11 times, represented Newcastle on 263 occasions and played 17 Test matches for NSW.
He has never sought any recognition but was “humbled” to earn the OAM.
“I have a great belief that you should always give back,” he said.
“This club [Kahibah Sports Club] has done a lot for me for my bowls career and I feel I should give something back.
“There are probably a million John Smiths out there giving back but not everyone gets the recognition.”