Phil recognised for devotion to Cessnock

HONOURED: Phil Baird received the Order of Australia Medal for his service to the community of Cessnock. Picture: KRYSTAL SELLARS
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Despite allof his achievements, Phil Baird found it“unbelievable” that he had been named on this year’s Queen’s Birthday honours list.

Mr Baird, 82, received the Order of Australia Medal for his service to the Cessnock community.

A life member of Cessnock junior and senior rugby league andCessnock Amateur Swimming Club, hewas also the founding president ofCessnock Masters Swimming Club in 1994 andCessnock Croquet Club in2014.

Mr Baird first became involved as a volunteer with theCessnock junior league in the 1950s, when the junior clubwas on the verge of collapsing.

“It seemed natural that I could put my two cents in and do what I could to help,” he said.

“My kids wouldn’t have been able to enjoy the sport and get the benefits and friendships out of it that I did.”

He was the Cessnock Goannas’secretary in the glory days of the 1970s, when the club won two premierships.

His passion for the sport of rugby league culminated in a self-published bookThe Goanna Legend,which documented the history of 100 years of rugby league in Cessnock in 2011.

Along with his sporting achievements, Mr Baird was also dedicated to literally giving a part of himself to people in need–donating blood 250 times between the ages of 19 and 80.

He was a Guinness World Record holder for blood donationsin 2009, although his record has since been eclipsed.

Mr Baird has also been a Justice of the Peace for more than 50 years;was aboard member of Cessnock Community Transport and a member of Cessnock City Council’sSenior Citizens Week committee for more than 10 years.

He said it was a “wonderful surprise” to learn he would bereceivingthe OAM.

“The beauty of it is that I have been involved with hundreds of wonderful volunteers, and if it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t have been able to achieve what I have,” he said.

He dedicated the honour to his wife of 61 years, Barbara.

Mr Baird started his working life as a blacksmith’s striker, and then did an apprenticeship in fitting and machining, workingat the Aberdare Central mine, before gaining a position with the National Insurance Company of New Zealand.

When the company closed its Cessnock office, he was given the offer to move to Newcastle, but didn’t want to leave town.

“I’m devoted to Cessnock,” he said.

So he bought a local milk run and worked in that business until he retired in 1992.

In his retirement he kept busy, particularly with swimming as a coach and official, and later helped to establish the Cessnock Croquet Club in 2014.

“It’s been a wonderful ride; a very busy lifetime but it has never seemed that way, because I’ve enjoyed every little bit of it,” he said.

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