PCYC and Arthur “Sharkey” Ryan both turn 73 this year. Coincidence? For those of you who know Sharkey, understand that PCYC has been a big part of his life. An understatement? Perhaps.
Sharkey Ryan won our Lifetime Volunteer of the Year Award at our Thank a Volunteer Day event on 5 December. As I called out his name and he walked up to accept his award, there were loud cheers from the entire crowd and lots of “Go Sharkey!” and “Well Done Mate!”. This gentle and quiet man accepted his award and said “Thanks for this. I don’t volunteer for the awards or recognition; I do it because I just like helping out”.
Sharkey Ryan first stepped into PCYC when he was 7 years old. 66 years later, he still finds himself coming back every week but in a different capacity.. A Volunteer.. But not just “A Volunteer”. When I sat down to interview Sharkey and he started telling me about his life and how he has trained, mentored and been an “uncle” figure to many a keen young boxer over the years, I realised that my usual questions when interviewing a Volunteer for this article would just not “cut it”.
Sharkey is a Life Member of the Geraldton PCYC. He has had a long and distinguished association with boxing and PCYC. He was born in 1942 and started boxing at Geraldton PCYC under the hand of Paddy Doolan at 8 years of age.
Sharkey is highly decorated as a boxer and was a past National Amateur Boxing Champion. His boxing career ended when he broke his jaw in a tournament that may have earned him selection to the Australian Olympic squad for Tokyo in 1964.
Following this mishap, Sharkey turned his skills to training and providing support to young boys to concentrate more on his family and other personal interests.
In earlier days, Sharkey would often travel to Perth on Fridays with a bus full of up to 14 hopeful young boxers to compete against Perth boxers. He said that he would also often have to develop the tournament program when they got down there too because if the Geraldton boys didn’t come, there would be no tournament!
Back in those days, Sharkey would be in the ring 4 nights a week training and coaching, then to travel to Perth on a Friday and come straight back again!
Geraldton PCYC honoured Sharkey at the official opening of the Wonthella building in 2001, by dedicating the Boxing Centre to him.
Lately, Sharkey can be found at PCYC 2 days a week, training the juniors and every now and then, looking in to see how the seniors are doing.
Sharkey also enjoys boot scooting every week with his wife and they are looking forward to heading down south to enjoy the Boyup Brook Music Festival where they will participate in the annual country music festival as boot scooters.
It was a humbling experience chatting to Sharkey and realising the impact he has made to so many children over the years and to go on and train and support a second generation of interested boxers in our community.
Sharkey has said the following to people interested in volunteering: “Just do it and enjoy what it is that you do. It’s a great experience and you meet a lot of people. People look up to you when you are a volunteer and you get a lot out of it.”