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It is with great sadness Surf Life Saving NSW advises members of the passing of life member Neil Montgomery OAM.

17 year-old Neil joined Collaroy SLSC in 1946. It was the beginning of a lifetime of loyalty to the Sydney Northern Beaches club, with 73 continuous years service.

After obtaining his Bronze Medallion in 1947, Neil was on a fast track to becoming an integral part of the club, from administrative and committee roles to education and training and surf sports. A natural leader, he was an inspiration and mentor to hundreds within the Surf Life Saving movement but also the wider community. 

His competition record as a beach sprinter is impressive. At the 1951 Australian Championships in Perth, Neil won the both the Open Men’s Beach Sprint and the Open Men’s Beach Relay title with teammates Barry Heath, Bob Langbein and John Tennyson.

In the Men’s Open Beach Sprint, Neil picked up two Silver Medals either side of the 1951 Titles.

Neil’s impressive running ability didn’t go unnoticed off the beach. He was one of the fastest sprinters in Australia on both grass and sand. After being offered the chance to move from amateur to professional, he was forced to make a decision between surf sports competition or his professional sprinting career.

While it will never be known if Neil would have enjoyed more success beach sprinting at surf carnivals, the money available for professional sprinters on the Gift Race Sprint Circuit was too good an opportunity to pass up.  

The SLSA rules for surf sports competition at the time meant he had to preclude himself from competing for Collaroy in any beach sprint events at any level.

Neil became a highly successful, respected professional runner. One of his most notable wins was the Broken Hill Gift, Australia’s most prominent sprint at the time.

He travelled the country earning enough to support his young family and purchase land to build a home on Collaroy Plateau.

Neil challenged Surf Life Saving Australia about their archaic rules, ultimately forcing the governing body to change the rules to allow professionals to compete alongside other surf lifesavers.

Away from competition Neil held a number of club management roles that were instrumental in the development and success of the club across all areas. He served as Club President (2 years), Vice President (3 years), Life Membership Committee (29 years), Premises Committee (11 years), Touring Team Manager (1985) and Chief Training Instructor (1983).

His roles also extended to the Sydney Northern Beaches branch were he represented Collaroy SLSC as branch Superintendent, branch delegate to SLSNSW, branch Team Manager, Race Secretary as well as sitting on the Board of Examiners for an incredible 34 years.

Additional to these roles, he volunteered his time to sit on committees of that contributed to constitutional change, fundraising and events. This also included his role as Chairman on the competition committees for The Metropolitan Championships (1985), NSW Championships (1987) and NSW Championships (2000).

He was a member of the SLSNSW Judiciary Panel at State Championships. He was overall State Championship Referee and Beach Referee as well as NSW Team Manager.

Between 1971 and 1975 Neil was the Surf Life Saving Australian Championships Referee, additionally between 1971 and 1980 he was the Australian Beach Referee to those respective Australian Championships.

Outside Surf Life Saving, somehow Neil found time to be on the Board of Directors at the Collaroy Services Beach Club and was its President for 10 years. A role his youngest son Chris today admirably continues.

Collaroy SLSC Vice President Geoff Small said, “We have witnessed the passing of a great clubman whose deeds through Surf Life Saving’s motto really meant vigilant and victorious.

“Neil will be remembered as a gentleman who loved to tell the odd story,” said Geoff. “He loved socialising and to be surrounded by family and friends. With Neil`s passing goes seven decades of Surf Life Saving involvement. Neil played a momentous part of our proud 108 year history within the Collaroy Surf life Saving Club. He will be dearly missed. Rest in peace our friend.”

Neil was 89 years-old.

Surf Life Saving NSW sends condolences to Neil’s wife Dorothy, sons Gary, Wayne, Glen and Chris, his 9 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.

Awards of Recognition

  • 2012: Awarded Collaroy SLSC’s highest honour of Honour Blazer Member (Life Membership on a Life Membership).

  • 2000:  The Club introduced the Inaugural Neil Montgomery: Most Outstanding Beach Competitor Award

  • 1999: Awarded OAM (Medal of the Order of Australia) for services to Surf Life Saving

  • 1974-1999: for 25 years he was our Clubs Beach Sprint Coach.

  • 1996: 50 year SLSA Service Award

  • 1993-94 season Neil was the instigator of the Nipper section participating in 2-Person R&R events.

  • 1993: Awarded Life Membership Surf Life Saving NSW

  • 1985-86 season Neil was the driving force in the resurrection of the Nipper movement in our Surf Club.

  • 1979: Awarded Life Membership of Surf Life Saving Sydney Northern Beaches

  • 1979: Obtained Advanced Resuscitation Certificate. Advanced Examiners Resuscitation Certificate and Radio Officers Certificate.

  • 1977: 25 year SLSA Service Award.

  • 1977-78 season Neil represented Australia at the World Life Saving conference at Huntington Beach, California, USA.

  • 1971: Awarded Life Membership of Collaroy SLSC


Thursday 4 July 2019