Faces of Tamworth: Rugby league stalwarts Bev Thomas and Patty Dewhurst

Sportsman Warehouse December Volunteer of the Month winners Bev Thomas (left) and Patty Dewhurst (second from right) receive their certificates from manager Ricky Craig (second from left) and assistant manager Bob Barber (right). Photo: Barry Smith 181215BSB01
Sportsman Warehouse December Volunteer of the Month winners Bev Thomas (left) and Patty Dewhurst (second from right) receive their certificates from manager Ricky Craig (second from left) and assistant manager Bob Barber (right). Photo: Barry Smith 181215BSB01

There is a lot that goes into running a sporting club or organisation. Bev Thomas and Patty Dewhurst have worked tirelessly behind the scenes of the local junior rugby league competition for over 35 years. In 2015 they were named the Greater Northern Region Volunteers of the Year and recognised for their years of service as recipients of the Sportsman’s Warehouse Volunteer of the Month award.

TWO tireless workers have been recognised for their service to junior rugby league as the December winners of the Sportsmans Warehouse Volunteer of the Month award.

Patty Dewhurst and Bev Thomas are the first joint winners of the award and have both been involved in the running of the local junior rugby league competition for, as Sportsmans Warehouse assistant manager Bob Barber put it, “more years than they care to remember”.

“Normally we have one winner per month but these two ladies are both worthy winners and we couldn’t split them,” Barber said.

Both have clocked up over 35 years of service – Dewhurst 38 and Thomas 40 – much of which they’ve been manning the canteen together.

They first got involved when their children started playing. 

“They asked for people to help out at the canteen.

“I went in and I haven’t left,” Thomas said.

Dewhurst was coaxed into helping after making a comment while watching her son Dean play.

“A gentleman by the name of Morris Paterson.

“He said ‘put your money where your mouth is’,” she said.

So she did.

“I went onto the men’s (minor league) committee and stayed on the men’s committee for 18 years,” she said.

During her tenure, she filled many roles from judiciary chairman to referees’ manager to fixtures and grading chairman, a role she will be taking on again next year.

Both have also coached sides over the years.

Thomas coached St Joseph’s and Dewhurst, or “Mrs D” as she was known, South Tamworth, and then the West Lions when South later combined with Tamworth High.

She recalled attending a coaching course under Johnny Raper and, at the end of the day, sharing a beer with him.

“My father, Cliff Burgess, coached West Tamworth and North Tamworth.

“I grew up around football,” she said.

She is currently also the president of the Tamworth and District Minor League ladies’ auxiliary with Thomas the treasurer.

They perform many duties.

On top of running the canteen every Saturday morning, they also pay the junior and Group 4 (junior) referees, and provide canteen facilities for other events held at the Minor League grounds as well as during the Country Music Festival.

“We’ve built it up in five years,” Dewhurst said.

“We started off selling ice.

“Now we have the canteen, music of a morning and showers.” 

It’s a full-on 10 days for both.

“Straight after New Years we start getting ready,” Dewhurst said. “We’ve actually been going since September.”

All the money raised goes back to the Minor League.

Winter sees them down there three or four days of the week.

“People ask us why we’re still doing it,” Dewhurst said.

She is quick to answer “the friends she has made over the years”.

For Thomas, part of the enjoyment is seeing the generations come through.

She’s now enjoying watching her great grandsons play.

Earlier this year, she and Dewhurst were named the Greater Northern Region Volunteers of the Year and represented the region in the Country Rugby League Volunteer of the Year award.

In  the Year of the Volunteer in 2001, Thomas was  one of 10, out of thousands of volunteers, picked to go down and watch the grand final.

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