HUNTER HERO: Jeff Bower

THROUGHOUT his many years of volunteering, Newcastle's Jeff Bower has had the attitude that you can't complain about anything unless you're willing to roll your sleeves up and help the cause.

And so he has given his time to many organisations over the years.

Mr Bower, 60, has held every position in South Newcastle Junior Rugby League Club's committee, and was also vice president and sports trainer for the senior club.

He was president of Hamilton South Public School P&C in the early '90s, was a director of South Newcastle Leagues Club, and had a small stint as treasurer of Merewether Carlton Rugby Club.

Mr Bower was also The Junction's Neighbourhood Watch area co-ordinator for a decade.

But of all the organisations he has volunteered for, his work with surf lifesaving and Cooks Hill Surf Club has yielded the most enjoyment and reward.

Like many of the organisations he has volunteered for, Mr Bower became interested in surf lifesaving when his three sons got involved in nippers in 1986.

"My kids were involved in nippers at Cooks Hill Surf Club, and it just progressed from there," he said.

"You build relationships and friendships and get more and more involved.

"At first, I was an age group supervisor at Cooks Hill, then because I enjoyed it so much I progressed to getting my bronze medallion and doing patrols.

"They were after patrol captains, so I put my hand up for that, then a bit later I got involved with the Hunter Branch, riding and patrolling on the jet-skis."

Hunter Branch Support Group president Henry Scruton said Mr Bower had been on the call-out team as a rescue water craft (jet-ski) operator for the past five years.

"We need highly skilled and motivated people, and Jeff is one of the best," Mr Scruton said.

"He is always able to assist and help out. The jet-ski operation is above and beyond his commitment to his surf club. He does it on top of his surf club roster.

"He is an excellent surf lifesaver, and is very dedicated to our movement.

"Jeff is a wonderful asset for us to have."

Mr Bower said the Hunter Branch Support Group began in connection with the Westpac Rescue Helicopter.

Each year they help out with Stockton Surf Club's Cross The Harbour Swim and the Ducks For Dollars fund-raiser.

"We've got a lot of drivers, so individually we'll head out once a month to patrol the beaches from Merewether to Stockton," he said.

"The jet-ski is an amazing machine. You can get from one beach to another in a matter of seconds or minutes.

"I had a rescue at Cooks Hill a few years ago where there were two girls in trouble.

"The jet-skis just go through the water so fast, so I had the two girls back on the beach in a minute-and-a-half, where if you had to swim out or go out in the rubber ducky it would've been a lot longer than that.

"It can be the difference between life and death."

Mr Bower's sons now join him on patrol at Cooks Hill Surf Club.

"That was a very proud moment for me, to have my boys on patrol with me," he said.

"One of my sons is also a lifeguard with the council.

"As a family, we've always been beach lovers. It was just natural we ended up on that side."

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