Mr Andrew John Cross receives an Order of Australia Medal as part of the Queen's Birthday Honours List 2019

COOG YOU BELIEVE IT? Walcha sporting ambassador Mr Andrew 'Coogie' Cross OAM relaxing in his home in between media interviews last week. Photo: Vanessa Arundale
COOG YOU BELIEVE IT? Walcha sporting ambassador Mr Andrew 'Coogie' Cross OAM relaxing in his home in between media interviews last week. Photo: Vanessa Arundale

Walcha News contributing journalist AJ 'Coogie' Cross has been recognised for his service to the community of Walcha.

The 63-year-old Walcha local by his own calculation has spent in excess of 130 years (and most of his weekends) involved in the majority of sports clubs in the town.

This weekend it was announced he is to become an Order of Australia Member as part of the Queen's Birthday Honours List 2019

Mr Cross said the most rewarding thing he has done in his comprehensive sporting curriculum vitae is teaching children their first swimming skills - something he started doing after taking on the Walcha Pool Manager role for Walcha Council in 1982.

"You can't put a value on that feeling," he said.

"It's one of my biggest passions outside my family."

The fact that Mr Cross nearly drowned three times before he was 14-years-old has been a big part of his motivation to continue to teach swimming for the last 37 years.

"Any secondary student who can't swim 50 metres using a recognisable stroke has been let down by either the system or their parents," Mr Cross said.

Another one of the highlights for Mr Cross is his three life memberships - for the Walcha Cricket Club and both the Walcha Touch Footy and Rugby League associations.

"I was president of Touch Football for thirty years, and you don't do that if you don't enjoy it," he said.

Every sport involves a different skill and Mr Cross says he appreciates them all, but it is the camaraderie involved in team sport that he enjoys the most.

I feel sorry for anyone that has never played team sport

Andrew Cross

"I feel sorry for anyone that has never played team sport," he said.

"They've missed out on so much, and I've seen some kids that have become involved in a team sport, and it's turned their life around."

Mr Cross said he was very grateful to the person who nominated him for the OAM and those who supported it.

"If you're going into it [voluntary sports administration] for acknowledgement you're going into it for the wrong reasons...if it happens it's great - but don't expect it," he said.

A natural communicator, with a definite 'gift of the gab', Mr Cross has written both the sports column and the gossip column for the Walcha News for the last 35 years as well as contributing to the Apsley Advocate for the previous 20 years.

In the past he has also been publicity officer for the Walcha Cricket Club (34 years); Golf Club (18 years); Rugby League Association (20 years); Squash Club (15 years) and the Walcha Swimming Club (20 years).

Mr Cross' other community services include: Life Member and Patron, Walcha Rugby League Club, current and involved since 1974; Recording Secretary and Publicity Officer, Walcha District Cricket Association, 1986-2019, and Life Member; Life Member and Patron, Walcha Touch Football Association, and has held a range of roles including as President, Publicity Officer and Recording Secretary, 1985-2014.

His awards and recognition include being Walcha's Senior Sports Person of the Year in 1997 and a recipient of the Armidale Sports Council's Services to Sport Award in 2015.

Member for Tamworth Kevin Anderson MP congratulated Walcha Journalist and sports-lover Andrew "Coogee" Cross and Tamworth paediatrician Dr David McDonald for their Order of Australia in the General Division.

"This is wonderful recognition for two people who serve their communities with great passion, but in different fields. Andrew Cross is 'Mr Sport' in Walcha and also has a fantastic record of service to his community," Mr Anderson said.

"I want to extend my heartfelt congratulations to him."

The Order of Australia is an order of chivalry established on 14 February 1975 by Elizabeth II, Queen of Australia, to recognise Australian citizens and other persons for achievement or meritorious service.

MP Kevin Anderson with Andrew Cross and Walcha Mayor Eric Noakes at the Walcha Sportsground in 2018

MP Kevin Anderson with Andrew Cross and Walcha Mayor Eric Noakes at the Walcha Sportsground in 2018