“I had a boss that said to me: ‘A lot of people who retire from work, retire from living’ – so I keep myself going.”
Traralgon newspaper The Journal and the Record once described 74-year-old Kevin Radford – then playing football for the Traralgon Maroons – as a “giant”.
Standing at an imposing 189 centimetres and weighing a robust 92 kilograms, the paper wrote him up as a potential “monster” of a recruit in 1962.
Now, monstrous is a word fitting of the Hellyer resident’s resume filled with community involvement and sporting success.
Kevin was born in Victoria in 1940 near the beginning of World War II, with his mother travelling from the family’s home in Burnie to be closer to his father: a soldier in the army.
He grew up in Burnie during a time of constant unease, with Japanese submarines reportedly inhabiting the Bass Strait.
“I remember my mum blacking out the windows in case of enemies and being terrified because there was a speck of light coming in. I was too young to appreciate what was going on at the time,” he said.
It was football that would shine brightest as a hobby for Kevin in 1958 when he played his first year for the Burnie Tigers, winning a premiership and taking out the club’s best-and-fairest award in his division.
A ruckman by trade, his football career would see him play eight years with the Tigers alongside a two-year stint with Gippsland Football League outfit Traralgon, earning a total of five premierships and two best-and-fairest trophies along the way.
It was at the Maroons, a club that then-president Wally Phillips had captained when his father had played, where Kevin suffered a serious injury to his left knee requiring surgery.
“Back in those days, your football career was buggered,” he said of his injury.
“My left knee was my jumping knee, to get more height. But I changed, I started jumping on my right – I did it subconsciously.”
It was the clubs’ trainers throughout his career keeping him “well looked after” which ultimately motivated him to become a trainer himself, taking on the medical role with Smithton’s basketball and football clubs; still continuing with the latter since 1992.
A passion for junior development led Kevin to give several Smithton-based players game time by transporting them up the coast to play for Penguin’s U/18 side, going on to help the Smithton Basketball Club become a part of the NWBU in 1984.
“They were unaffiliated at the time – they used to bring Burnie umpires in for finals,” he said of Smithton.
He recalled umpiring matches at the old town hall, which was so cramped for space that players had to “put a foot in between the patrons” to take a side ball, with the ball often hitting the roof.
With many of his basketball players also trying their hand at football, Kevin’s transition across to Smithton was natural, saying he “never missed a game in all grades” in his first 16-and-a-half-years of involvement with the Saints’ football club.
“What I used to love doing was driving in, sitting in my car and watching [football] the whole day, listening to ABC’s ‘Match of the Day’ on the radio. I loved it.”
Kevin also held a similar role with NBL title-winning side Launceston Casino City in its three-year existence; was a player, coach and committee member at Burnie’s Montello Saints; and held several positions with the Tasmanian Junior Men’s Commission.
His volunteering outside of sport is just as impressive.
He continues to drive patients in need across the state in the Red Cross and Cancer Council Tasmania transport vehicles, with a total of 25 years’ involvement between both.
“I always ring and tell them I’ve got their job so they’ve got a chance to check up on me,” he joked. “If they want a break, I know all the spots to stop.
“You get very friendly with them; just being there gives you a lot of perspective on life.”
He was also a member of the Smithton Lions Club for nine years before becoming a founding member of the Rocky Cape Lions Club in 1999, which now boasts over 30 members.
Despite this feat, his status within the local volunteer organisation is questionable: “I’m the bloke that does all the fines!” he laughed.
It was while working as an electrician on the Rocky Cape Tavern that he purchased a shack in Hellyer and eventually moved in, meeting future wife Natalie during the construction and marrying in 1989.
“I’ve only been able to do all this other stuff, all sporting involvement and everything else . . . she’s been a wonderful support, always getting involved,” Kevin said of wife “Tally”.
“I want to keep doing the volunteering for as long as I can.”
Overall, Kevin has been awarded life memberships to four different organisations, calling it a “great honour” to receive “the highest honour any organisation can give” on so many occasions.
Kevin has been described as a “tireless worker” by friends: someone who would “do anything for anyone” and remaining “on the go all the time doing good deeds”.
With Christmas approaching, you may spot him dressed up as Santa for the past 23 years, riding in a fire truck and handing out lollies to children from Crayfish Creek to Rocky Cape.
Radford (centre) playing for the Burnie Tigers in 1961.