Living Legend Tony Lewis looks back on decades in Bathurst

HAVING A BALL: Tony Lewis arrived in Bathurst in 1991 from Albury to work as the manager of the Bathurst Basketball Stadium. Photo: BRADLEY JURD
HAVING A BALL: Tony Lewis arrived in Bathurst in 1991 from Albury to work as the manager of the Bathurst Basketball Stadium. Photo: BRADLEY JURD

There are not too many people in Bathurst who have dedicated more of their time to sport than Tony Lewis.

He’s heavily involved in not one, but three sports – basketball, Australian rules football and touch football. 

And now Lewis has been honoured for his dedication, being invited to join the city’s exclusive Living Legends club. 

He was named a Living Legend back in May, but the official presentation was held on July 28.

Lewis said it was a surprise, but a huge honour.

“I knew nothing of it until I got a letter in the mail telling me about it. I haven’t been able to find out, but I suspect it was my late wife [Debbie] who nominated me,” he said.

“It's certainly an honour, but you don't do the things you do for recognition. You do it because you enjoy serving the people of Bathurst.

“It's a special award and there’s not too many of us. There’s probably some people out there that deserve it more than me.”

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Lewis arrived in Bathurst in 1991 after moving from his native Albury to work as the manager of the Bathurst Basketball Stadium.

His background was in sports administration, making him the perfect man for the job.

His background in basketball includes coaching Australian legend Lauren Jackson when she was a junior, as well as coaching in the South East Australian Basketball League. 

Lewis became involved in Australian rules football in 1993.

“I stupidly agreed to play one game,” he said. “It was the first game of the season, in reserve grade.

“But I've been there ever since.

“I've played, I've coached, I've served on the committee continually, I'm a life member. I've also served as general manager of AFL Central West and sat on the board for a number of years.

“There's probably not much I haven't done.” 

Bathurst is home now, not Albury. It’s where my friends are, it’s where I live and this is what I do.

Lewis has also been involved in touch football since 1994, seeing the local competition grow from 30 to 130 teams.

He’s been in the city for 25 years now, so Bathurst has certainly become his home.

“I’ve still got close ties with Albury, with the basketball scene back there. My best mate was at my wife’s funeral a few months back and said, ‘Come on, fat boy, it’s time to come home’,” he said.

“But Bathurst is home now, not Albury. It’s where my friends are, it’s where I live and this is what I do. 

“I’ve made a lot of close friends through the three sports I’m involved with and I’ve probably been involved with tens of thousands of people while I’ve been coaching.

“My life has been sport and my late wife didn't have a sporting bone in her body.

“She allowed me to work 70 to 80 hours a week at the basketball stadium and then be involved with AFL on the weekend and touch football a few days during the week. She just let me go with the flow.”

He’s dedicated so much time to three sports, but Lewis is willing to nominate his favourite: basketball.

“I’m a huge Boston Celtics fan, following them to the letter of the law,” he said.

“When I have my two training sessions with All Saints’, I ask them, ‘Did the Celtics win today?’. If they haven’t got the answer, they’ve all got to do push-ups. 

“I’ve got about $20,000 worth of memorabilia.” 

He’s also a big fan of the Carlton Blues. 

The Living Legends honour was introduced in 2015 as part of the city’s bicentenary celebrations.

There were 200 citizens given the status in that first year.

This year’s Living Legends were announced on Proclamation Day, but were officially presented with their badges, native tree and Greg Hyde print by Bathurst mayor Graeme Hanger at a morning tea held at BMEC.