Hedley Nicholson steps down from volunteer duties at Parkes Tennis Centre after 43 years

IT'S TIME: Hedley Nicholson OAM will certainly be missed at the Parkes Tennis Centre after he announced he was stepping down from his many duties he'd been doing for 43 years. Photo: Christine Little
IT'S TIME: Hedley Nicholson OAM will certainly be missed at the Parkes Tennis Centre after he announced he was stepping down from his many duties he'd been doing for 43 years. Photo: Christine Little

He's the familiar face you see working away around the grounds of the Parkes Tennis Centre or in the clubhouse - now after 43 years Hedley Nicholson OAM has decided to hang up all of his hats.

You name it Hedley has done it - be it mowing lawns, building fences, laying and brushing courts, cleaning and maintaining the grounds, repairs and serving in an executive role on the committee.

And now the 81-year-old says it's time to step aside and let someone younger take charge of the duties.

Hedley joined the Parkes Tennis Club in 1977 as a player.

At the time the club only had $234 in the bank and dirt courts that had to be repaired after it rained when the water washed away the dirt.

What many may not know is the facilities the club boasts today are the result of many hard working volunteers, like Hedley, involved in working bees and fundraising for upgrades.

"I've spent over $1 million of fundraising money over the years," Hedley said.

"We didn't have a lot of luck with government grants."

It didn't take Hedley long to join the committee, in 1978, and he started running the junior tennis competition.

"There were two courts down the back with four foot of grass on them, they said I could have them for the juniors if I did them up," he said.

"So I got 300 tonne of gravel and I spread it all by hand."

In 1984 the club raised enough money to convert four courts into synthetic courts.

By 1988 a $44,000 government grant paid for the construction of another four courts, built as synthetics with fencing and all.

"Council did all the base work for that project, the rest was done all by volunteers," Hedley said.

Hedley became vice president in 1981, remaining in the role until 1989 when he was elected president for four years.

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After a few years' break, he returned to vice president in 1993 and has been vice president ever since, that is until this year when he announced he was stepping down at the club's annual general meeting.

1998 saw courts 9 to 12 converted to synthetic ones, with the final three going synthetic in 2007 - once courts were synthetic they needed to be brushed every few weeks.

"We'd use the two-foot broom, there's about nine kilometres of walking to do," Hedley said.

That's why anyone in Hedley's position would think of ways to make the job easier, like attaching a large brush to the ride-on lawn mower which he'd been doing since 2008.

The latest upgrades taking place at the centre right now are among the club's biggest, with a massive $600,000 refurbishment which includes resurfacing its courts to competition level so they can host more events and installing LED lights.

The money has come from grants and government funding, with the club also contributing funds.

The last time the club received government funding to resurface its courts was in 1989 and its last upgrade to selected courts was in 2007.

"The LED lights are now in and they're beautiful," Hedley said.

"We've gone from the old bulb that chewed up electricity to these. Some courts didn't have lights until the 1980s.

"This project is the first time council has taken control, other times it was done by me."

It's no surprise Hedley has received numerous awards and award nominations for his years of dedication to the club and sport - among the most significant were the Jim O'Neil State Award in 2005 and an Order of Australia Medal in 2013.

He admitted he never really expected to be volunteering for more than four decades.

"You just sort of carry on," he said.

"Anything that needed doing, I did... It had to be done.

"If you let it go it deteriorates and if you let it go too long, it's very hard to get it back."

And with wife Pauline, who plays as well and has given 30 years to volunteering in the canteen, and daughter Helen Magill, who played too, has been coaching since she was 16 and is now the head coach - these might have played a factor too.

Brendon Hunt has stepped into the vice president's role, and the maintenance duties along with it.

Hedley's favourite memories include the club hosting a bicentennial tournament (1988) the state coach and state squad attended and taking part in the 2000 Olympic celebrations in Parkes with a float in the parade and Helen in the torch relay. He also took a team to Sydney for Country Week for 10 years through the 90s, and they won their division in 1994.

"I just love tennis, I just started and kept playing everywhere I went," Hedley said.

"I'd like to thank my wife for allowing me the time to be here.

"I also want to thank council, in particular Greg Duffy and Michael Greenwood, for their support."

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