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Deserving Devil

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Graeme Stewart with his medal for 62-years as a volunteer with the Darley FNC. Photo - DFNC
Graeme Stewart with his medal for 62-years as a volunteer with the Darley FNC. Photo - DFNC

By Jessica Howard

Graeme Stewart has topped off a stellar season for the Darley Devils.

The head trainer and long serving volunteer was presented with the Ballarat Football Netball League’s Keith Lawrence Service Award on Monday December 4.

Mr Stewart has spent 62-years transitioning through several leagues. He is part of the history of the Melton and Bacchus Marsh DFL, Bacchus Marsh FL, Ballarat & Bacchus Marsh DFL, Riddell District FL, Central Highlands FL and finally the BFNL.

From just 10-years-old, Mr Stewart offered a helping hand to the (then) Darley Magpies, learning the art of rubbing and taping joints.

He witnessed the Darley premierships of 1955, 1957 and 1959, and in the years that followed, he trained with the newly formed reserves team and was selected for the senior team on a number of occasions.

In 1969, he played the majority of his games in the reserves, taking out the year’s Best and Fairest and going on to play in the grand final under coach Wes Burr.

The 1970s saw him continue to help out at training with strapping and a myriad of other tasks. He witnessed the premierships of 1971 and 1979 and was instrumental in the gathering of resources for the set-up of Darley’s junior football team in 1981.

Mr Stewart took on the role of Junior President and saw his son Kane become a Darley junior. His volunteer work soon took on many other faces, including junior parent, assistant coach, team runner, team manager, boundary runner, goal umpiring and organising training drills.

A decade later, when Kane moved to senior football, Mr Stewart followed.

He furthered his skills by attending courses at Collingwood and Western Bulldogs Football Clubs and soon became Darley’s head trainer – a position he holds to this day.

Club President Ray Newton, who nominated Mr Stewart for the Keith Lawrence Service Award, said it was a fitting honour.

“Graeme is one of those volunteers that make Darley the club that it is,” he said.

“He’s been around for such a long time that he becomes a part of the furniture and at times, some of his work may be taken for granted, so when the league asked for nominations for the awards, Graeme was a stand out.

“He does so much for the club – stuff that nobody else could possibly do – and this is some recognition for all of his efforts. It’s still not enough for what a bloke like him deserves but I hope he sees it and knows how much the club appreciates his 62-years”.

The Keith Lawrence Service Award, which is named after one of the BFNL’s longest serving volunteers, acknowledges outstanding service to the league and its clubs.