Tributes flow for Barry Lawrence

FORMER lifeguard and national surf life-saving champion Barry Lawrence has been remembered as one of Newcastle’s best sporting all-rounders.

Aged 74, Lawrence died yesterday at his Merewether home after battling heart-related health issues in recent years.

Newcastle Beach inspector Warren Smith said Lawrence was a natural bodysurfer, who along with former teammates Warren and Jeff Sergeant, Jeff Dawson and Paul Kerwin put the city on the national surf map.

Lawrence, who retired in 2001 after 25 years working as a lifeguard at Newcastle Beach, was an outstanding rugby league back-rower for South Newcastle and excelled at basketball, hockey, Australian rules football and golf.

Smith said Lawrence inspired him to become a lifeguard.

‘‘Not only in a work capacity, but I watched him through his career as a great footballer, basketballer, everything. 

‘‘He was one of the true all-round sportsmen of his era,’’ Smith said.

‘‘He was a great all-rounder in the water, and bodysurfing was one of his natural attributes that he did so well.

‘‘He was a great lifeguard and that’s all I ever wanted to do.

‘‘I idolised the guy – I just wanted to aspire to be like him. 

‘‘In those days, we had a lot of great lifeguards around, but Barry was the pinnacle, I thought.’’

Friend and former colleague John Young, who played in the same South Newcastle junior league teams, said Lawrence won the first ironman event held on Newcastle Beach.

‘‘Barry was one of the best all-round sportsmen we’ve ever had in Newcastle,’’ Young said.

‘‘He played basketball when he was younger, hockey, he won Australian surfing titles, he played first-grade rugby league for South Newcastle, and no matter what he took on, he was always good at it.

‘‘I couldn’t even beat him at cards.’’

Lawrence is survived by his wife, Dianne, and children James, Kylee and Mardi.

 Details of his funeral service were still being finalised yesterday and will appear in the Newcastle Herald on Monday.

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