Kevin's love of rugby league rewarded

AUSTRALIA DAY 2014 - Illawarra Honours Recipients

Kevin Riolo has been known as many things in his life - a coach, a mentor, a teacher and one heck of a rugby league fan.

Yesterday, it was his services to the game that earned him one of Australia's highest honours.

Mr Riolo's lifelong dedication to league - spanning more than 40 years as a player and referee - was officially recognised with an Order of Australia Medal.

The Figtree retiree has notched up five life memberships with rugby league associations, including the Illawarra Rugby League Referee's Association and Country Football League.

He is also chairman of the National Referee Accreditation Scheme.

"It's been a big part of my life," he said.

'I always believed it's the greatest game of all, one of the most exciting games you can watch out of any sport.'

Mr Riolo's expertise was also utilised by the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), who secured him as a coach to train troops in Malaysia and Norfolk Island in the early 1980s.

"I put the RAAF personnel through courses to become qualified rugby league coaches," he said.

"A lot of them were playing rugby league over there.

"I always believed it's the greatest game of all, one of the most exciting games you can watch out of any sport."

Outside of league, Mr Riolo's other passion has been teaching.

He spent 10 years teaching in primary schools around Sydney before transferring to secondary education to make better use of his English and history studies.

He joined Wollongong High School as principal in 1990, transforming it into a performing arts school two years later.

"It's gone from strength to strength," he said, adding that the school had produced many success stories.

One in particular came to mind: "We had a girl there who went on to bigger and better things - Natalie Bassingthwaighte," he said.

Mr Riolo said he was honoured to receive the OAM.

"You don't get involved in these things to get something like that, but when you do get it you feel like you're getting rewarded," he said.

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