Rick grew up on a sheep farm near Inverell in northern NSW, the eldest of seven siblings and a typical product of a country upbringing. Tough and determined, he always put the team before his own statistics. He ended up playing 25 Tests for Australia, which would have been more but for the introduction of World Series Cricket, and averaged just shy of 40.
He moved to Newcastle before his international career ended and started a career in property conveyancing before establishing his own successful financial planning business. It all seems a lifetime ago as Rick looks out to the ocean from Redhead Beach and a line of ships extending from the Port of Newcastle to Catherine Hill Bay.
Newcastle is the busiest coal port in the world and each year 40,000 seafarers from all over the world alight for a few hours before disappearing back to the deep blue sea.
In 2012, Rick completed a Christian Formation Course. Teresa Brierley, Director of Pastoral Ministries in the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle, approached him during the graduation ceremony about taking on the role of chaplain to the Port of Newcastle. The chaplaincy is linked to the Mission to Seafarers.
"It came out of the blue," he says. "I was looking for something that would give me an opportunity to help people who needed it. Just like my selection for NSW and then Australia – the timing was right. It was a big change, very different, but it felt just right.
“I wanted to make a difference and to give something to benefit people who are less fortunate and seeking life’s small pleasures amid the monotony and boredom of endless stretches of time at sea. Seafarers see themselves as financial prisoners.”
Often from countries where jobs are scarce, or pay very little, seafarers can raise a family and educate their children. But it is an unforgiving life, and they are separated from their families for nine months of the year. Covid has worsened their plight.
As an ex-international cricketer, Rick has empathy for their plight. He would often miss time with his young family when touring.
The past few years have been another period of transition for Rick. Approaching 70, the time was right to relinquish his responsibilities as chaplain and shift back into a less onerous voluntary role.
The work at the mission is irregular now, however Rick is far from idle. He and his wife Meryl are part of the leadership of our Diocesan Cursillo Movement , a lay movement the Catholic Church supports that focuses on helping people discover themselves, and their relationship with Christ. The Cursillo movement turned 50 in our Diocese in 2020 and we are hoping to celebrate this milestone at our National Encounter in Newcastle this October, with Rick and Meryl helping to organise.
Despite all Rick has accomplished in life, it is clear he still gets great fulfillment from helping others.