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Lessons of life from outside the sporting arena

Features

Like most boys his age, David Wark played football and tennis during his younger days at Christian Brothers College, but didn’t really pursue them beyond school. Little did he realise at the time that sport would have such a lasting impact on his life.

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So much so that earlier this year he was awarded an OAM in recognition of his many years as a volunteer sports administrator and his service to the community –including at CBC, with the Knights of the Southern Cross and Vinnies.

Reflecting on the life lessons that came from his involvement with sport, David, 75, said his long association with the Sturt Football Club was a standout.

“I always loved the Blues,” he told The Southern Cross from his apartment in the club’s heartland. “My father grew up over the road from Unley Oval in Frederick Street and I always had an interest in Sturt, but never in my wildest dreams would I have thought that one day I would be involved with the club.”

He initially joined the management committee at the urging of friend (now deacon) Daryl Hicks who told him “they need people like you” to help run the club. Before he knew it, David was spending many hours there and in 1975 began a 10-year stint as chairman, also joining the SANFL’s management committee as a director. He was awarded life membership of both Sturt and the SANFL.

At the time footy greats such as Hicks, Paul Bagshaw, Rick Davies, Michael Graham and legendary coach Jack Oatey were on the scene and Sturt was enjoying plenty of success.

However, it was the lessons David learned off the field that made a lasting impact, with most coming from Oatey.

“Jack became a father-type figure to me. He was an incredible man, his strength was what went on behind the scenes,” he said.

“He had a small group of confidantes around him – none of which were known to each other – and I was one of them, and I learned a lot about life from Jack.

“His attitude to life, his attitude to people, his ability to sum up a situation, to recognise a strength or minor weakness in people, including players…that resulted in him getting together a group of very talented players who shared a common bond and whose ability was well above the norm.”

David’s commitment to football was unrelenting as wife Margaret confirmed – and while he was at the club she was kept busy at home looking after their four young children.

“It took an enormous amount of time. Football clubs, apart from one or two paid employees, revolve around people in honorary capacities. It was a total involvement and once you were committed at that level you went about doing it to the best of your ability,” David explained.

His tenure as chairman ended when his son David (who is now CEO of Vinnies in SA) began playing for the Double Blues. By now he was hooked on being involved with sports and decided to test his abilities as an administrator for touch football.

“Here’s a game I knew nothing about. As I found, it’s an interesting game for a cross section of people – no matter how good or talented you are, male and female,” David said.

Then “in a rush of blood”, he applied to be a member of the board for what is now Basketball SA.

“That was a very exciting time. Basketball was on a high. The 36ers were flying, the new stadium was being built and there was a real buzz around basketball.

“Coming in with a footy background, it was interesting for me to learn from those who were coming from a different perspective than I had.”

He stayed on the board for 15 years, which was duly acknowledged with life membership of the association.

Throughout his commitments to various sports David also managed to find time to give back to his former school, CBC.

“There is a big place in my heart for the Christian Brothers,” he said. “I was grateful for the opportunities at school and their influence resulted in me achieving whatever I did in the years to come.”

He was involved for many years with the organising committee for the old scholars (including as chairman) and was a member of the college board, where he also served as chair. Under his watch the new chapel was built and plans to further expand the school were put in place.

David also carved a successful 30-year career with Southern Cross Care as the executive manager of retirement services, responsible for the marketing and maintenance of existing and new retirement villages and identifying sites for possible new villages.

“We’ve got an ageing population and there is always going to be a demand and I think it is a credit to SCC that they’ve established themselves as almost the benchmark in terms of care and facilities for the aged in South Australia,” he said.

His Catholic faith has always been part of his life and upon retiring to Goolwa, David and Margaret finally had the time to volunteer at the Vinnies shop in Victor Harbor. He became involved in the local Vinnies Conference, describing it as one of the “most rewarding” of his life time of service to organisations.

“It was knowing that every time you went to visit a client, by and large, you were in a position to help. That is pretty humbling. Some of the facilities and circumstances you are confronted with almost on a daily basis makes you really appreciate what life is all about,” he said.

 

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