Sporting life and lessons
SO many fine teachers have come to the Clarence Valley over the years and one of the best in the field of Physical Education (PE) and sports organisation at Grafton High School is Kerry Wilsmore.
Kerry came to Grafton 25 years ago and has been an inspiration to sporting teams not only within the school but within the Grafton area, the Valley and indeed the whole North Coast.
He has played most of the usual Australian sports, top grade in several and having a sound working knowledge of others and, more particularly, he is an excellent coach, communicator and organiser.
Hockey, basketball, cricket, both codes of rugby, soccer and athletics would be his main sporting talents but it does not end there.
He has been manager of many North Coast Combined High Schools boys and girls sporting teams.
Besides that Kerry was one of the steering committee and the driving force behind the establishment of the sand-based synthetic hockey field at Grafton's Fisher Park which has been a boon to the Clarence.
He has played a similar role in the construction of Grafton's soon to be officially opened second synthetic field, this time with the water based surface and the two fields will make the Jacaranda City one of the best equipped hockey centres in Country NSW.
Grafton has for many years had top-class grass hockey fields, but the synthetic fields offer better playing surfaces and are a must for any centre hoping to attract major hockey fixtures such as State titles.
"Before we gained the first synthetic field we knew we would be at a disadvantage playing major matches against schools that played and practised regularly on those superior surfaces," Kerry said.
"So to substitute we would do training on the Lower Fisher Park cricket grounds synthetic strip.
"It was smaller than we would have liked but we could practise passing, tackling and beating would-be tacklers etc on this surface and it paid off."
Hockey has not been Kerry's only sporting concern at Grafton High, as he has seen to it that every sport has had the best chance by co-opting some of the leading sportspeople and coaches around the district to back up his own prowess and ensure the best coaching is available to students.
In his 25 years at Grafton many Combined High Schools (CHS) championships have been won. In fact the school has averaged at least one NSW CHS championship team title a year. There have been individual championship wins too in swimming, athletics and squash etc.
Kerry John Wilsmore was born at Bathurst in April 1948, the youngest of four children to Frank, and Rita (nee Hooper) Wilsmore.
All four children, following in Dad's footsteps, are teachers, Gary a PE lecturer at Wollongong and Des a high school principal. Their sister Dale has moved interstate and is teaching in Brisbane.
Their father taught at Parkes Primary School for most of Kerry's early years.
Kerry was educated at Parkes Primary and then at Parkes High School where his main sports were rugby league as a second rower, a half in hockey and cricket as an all rounder.
He represented Parkes High in all three of these team sports as well as in athletics, in which he excelled in the sprints and the throwing events such as discus and javelin.
In 1965 he began a three-year course at Wollongong University to gain a Physical Education Degree.
At university Kerry had his first taste of basketball and rugby union and became heavily involved.
In rugby he represented at club level as lock or breakaway contesting those team positions with Peter Sullivan who went on to captain Australia and who finished his first grade football career with a short stint in rugby league with the St George Dragons.
Kerry's first teaching appointment was to Goulburn High in 1967 and he was at that school for 13 years.
It was in his second year, 1968, that Margaret Newman was transferred to Goulburn High as a PE teacher and a firm friendship developed between the two.
Margaret's home town was Woodburn on the NSW North Coast, but she had attended Ballina High School and was an above average athlete, becoming Queensland long jump and 80m hurdles champion as well as representing in softball and hockey.
Kerry and Margaret were married in Woodburn in 1973.
They have two sons, Andrew and Scott who, like their parents, have been first rate in sport.
Andrew played cricket and hockey in Grafton and represented NSW CHS in hockey. Later he played second grade and some first grade cricket for the Gold Coast Dolphins in the Brisbane competition.
He now lives at Canberra, where he is Liberal Party director for the ACT.
"That conflicts somewhat with his father's political leanings," Kerry said with a wry grin.
Scott represented Grafton and Grafton High in cricket and hockey and now is involved in triathlons.
He is performing well having gained the right to contest the Australian Marathon Triathlon championship next year in Forster and is hopeful of gaining a place in the Australian team to contest the World Championship in the famed Hawaiian Iron Man Triathlon.
It was during his 13 years at Goulburn that Kerry gained valuable coaching experience in a variety of sports, especially basketball, hockey and rugby.
He also was into administration as president of the local rugby union team and basketball secretary.
The basketball competition boasted more than 200 teams from juniors to the senior open divisions.
Kerry coached the Goulburn High rugby team to the State final of the Waratah Shield where they went so close to a State championship only to lose by two points, 10-12 to The Kings School of Sydney.
"Seven of our team were members of NSW Country teams and one of those was the State Under- 18 captain," Kerry said.
"One of my great joys was the year we beat arch-rivals, St Patrick's College of Goulburn at rugby in every age division."
Kerry also coached the school's soccer team to the State quarter finals of the Tasman Cup.
He vividly remembers the prowess of one of the school's finest all round sportsmen, Gavin Miller, for whom all sports seem to come naturally.
"Gavin was our best cricketer, rugby league, rugby union, and soccer player and went on to play first grade rugby league with the Cronulla Sharks in Sydney and captain NSW," Kerry said.
In his own right Kerry played rugby for Goulburn in the ACT competition with the side frequently meeting the Ainslie Club in grand finals.
Ainslie, which generally won these contests, was led by Neil McPherson who was originally from Maclean and had played Sydney rugby first grade as captain of Eastwood.
"Neil was not only an outstanding sportsman, but was outstanding in sportsmanship," Kerry said.
Kerry's own form was good, gaining him representative honours for Combined NSW Country Rugby in a memorable win over the touring Fijians.
In 1980 Kerry and Margaret Wilsmore came on transfer to Grafton High School, taking up the positions of head PE teachers, male and female respectively, with Kerry chief sports organiser.
"I found the main sport at the school was rowing, rowing and more rowing, and Grafton High was among the top in NSW," Kerry said.
"However, other sports seemed to suffer in comparison and the year I arrived Grafton High's open rugby league team had made headlines on the back page of the Sydney Daily Telegraph for the wrong reason, beaten 100-zero by Coffs Harbour High.
"I vowed that none of our sporting teams was going to be humiliated again and invoked the policy that any of our teams in any sport wanting to compete must have a solid training program in action.
"In this regard I was able to secure the services of such outstanding local sportsmen as Fred Sherriff, Bruce Leonard, Mick Gillett, Philip Beckman, Alan Paterson and others to assist."
It has paid off as the Grafton school's record in various State Championship events clearly shows.
"I believe Margaret was trying to pass on a message to me to restrict my time in Grafton to just coaching and not actively competing, when on leaving Goulburn she packed me just one football boot and one hockey boot," he said.
Nevertheless Kerry did play cricket here with Brothers and basketball with Village Green as well as being basketball association president for three years.
Kerry's association with Grafton High School hockey has been amazing, helping the school to be joint North Coast CHS champions for each of the past 20 years, making the State finals on several occasions and twice winning the crown.
"In that time I helped coach one of the most talented sportsmen I have ever seen, Brent Livermore," Kerry said.