Critcher beat odds to fulfil lifesaving dream


When it comes to legends in the surf lifesaving movement, George Critcher sits among those at the top of the list.

George Critche with fellow Corrimal Surf Life Saving Club life member Ron Bradley.

George Critche with fellow Corrimal Surf Life Saving Club life member Ron Bradley.

George Critcher.

George Critcher.

The widely respected Corrimal Surf Life Saving Club's life governor and life member died on Tuesday at the age of 90.

Also a life member of Illawarra, NSW and SLSA of Australia, Critcher was on the eve of 75 years' membership of his beloved club, which he served with such distinction.

Corrimal SLSC life member and historian Graham Yates recalled how Critcher joined the club in 1938, aged 16 years, and obtained the qualifying certificate. Shortly after, he was diagnosed with rheumatic fever and didn't swim for two years.

Having this illness in the 1930s was devastating, as many people perished. Doctors and specialists told Critcher's parents that he would never be active in sport.

Defying all odds, he starting swimming a bit, becoming stronger as time went by, and finally obtained his bronze medallion in 1939-40 to the amazement of his family and surf-club friends.

The rest, as they say, is history.

It didn't take Critcher long to become disciplined in all surf lifesaving events, mostly competing in R&R and march past, as Corrimal were strong in these events.

Critcher also rowed in one of Corrimal's first boat crews, rowing in the newly christened Towradgi Star, launched in 1946.

He won the Hall Cup, Corrimal's trophy for the most outstanding member, in the same year, and went on to win this cup many times.

Critcher became assistant march past coach in 1948-49, and was also coaching R&R, the beginning of a long coaching career.

He was popular with club members, admired and well respected. He also entered into the administration of club affairs, and was also a keen Illawarra branch official for many years, in which he held many positions.

Critcher was Corrimal club captain and president, was on the building committee and was march past coach for more than 55 years, learning coaching from other club stalwarts Cliff Carr and Gil Grant.

In 1964 Corrimal's fifth surfboat was named the George Critcher.

He was club president when Corrimal hosted their first State Titles in 1969, and later that season coached the march past team for the first ever third at the Australian Championships.

When Critcher stepped down after 15 years as president, it was recorded in the club's annual report: "Congratulations on your achievements in the surf lifesaving movement, a surfer, a gentleman, a leader, a man, our mate 'Silver', how could one select a single heading to describe George Critcher."

Critcher's pinnacle in coaching came in 1991-92 when Corrimal won the march past at the national titles, which he rated as his greatest moment in surf lifesaving.

Corrimal SLSC and surf lifesaving in general, has lost one of its great sons of the movement. He will always be remembered as a gentleman.

His funeral service will be at Northcliffe Chapel of Hansen & Cole, Kembla Grange, at 2.30pm on Monday.


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