Neil Montgomery OAM

Neil Montgomery OAM – Collaroy SLSC

As a 17-year-old, Neil joined Collaroy SLSC in 1946. It was the beginning of a lifetime of loyalty to the Sydney Northern Beaches club, with 73 continuous years’ service. After obtaining his Bronze Medallion in 1947, Neil was on a fast track to becoming an integral part of the Club, from administrative and committee roles to education and training and surf sports. A natural leader, he was an inspiration and a mentor to hundreds not only within the Surf Life Saving movement but also the wider community.

His competition record as a beach sprinter is impressive. At the 1951 Australian Championships in Perth, Neil won the both the Open Men’s Beach Sprint and the Open Men’s Beach Relay title with teammates Barry Heath, Bob Langbein and John Tennyson. In the Men’s Open Beach Sprint, Neil picked up two Silver Medals either side of the 1951 Titles.

Neil’s impressive running ability didn’t go unnoticed off the beach. He was one of the fastest sprinters in Australia on both grass and sand. After being offered the chance to move from amateur to professional, he was forced to make a decision between surf sports competition or his professional sprinting career. While it will never be known if Neil would have enjoyed more success beach sprinting at surf carnivals, the money available for professional sprinters on the Gift Race Sprint Circuit was too good an opportunity to pass up.

The SLSA rules for surf sports competition at the time meant he had to preclude himself from competing for Collaroy in any beach sprint events at any level. Neil became a highly successful, respected professional runner. One of his most notable wins was the Broken Hill Gift, Australia’s most prominent sprint at the time. He travelled the country earning enough to support his young family and purchase land to build a home on Collaroy Plateau.

Neil challenged Surf Life Saving Australia about their archaic rules, ultimately forcing the governing body to change the rules to allow professionals to compete alongside other surf lifesavers. Away from competition Neil held a number of Club management roles that were instrumental in the development and success of the Club across all areas. He served as Club President (2 years), Vice President (3 years), Life Membership Committee (29 years), Premises Committee (11 years), Touring Team Manager (1985) and Chief Training Instructor (1983).

His roles also extended to the Sydney Northern Beaches Branch were he represented Collaroy SLSC as Branch Superintendent, Branch delegate to SLSNSW, Branch Team Manager, Race Secretary as well as sitting on the Board of Examiners for an incredible 34 years. Additional to these roles, he volunteered his time to sit on committees of that contributed to Constitutional change, fundraising and events. This also included his role as Chairman on the competition committees for The Metropolitan Championships (1985), NSW Championships (1987) and NSW Championships (2000).

He was a member of the SLSNSW Judiciary Panel and overall State Championship Referee and Beach Referee as well as NSW Team Manager. Between 1971 and 1975 Neil was the Surf Life Saving Australian Championships Referee.  Additionally between 1971 and 1980 he was the Australian Beach Referee to those respective Australian Championships. Outside Surf Life Saving, somehow Neil found time to be on the Board of Directors at the Collaroy Services Beach Club and was its President for 10 years, a role his youngest son Chris admirably continued.

Collaroy SLSC Vice President Geoff Small said, “We have witnessed the passing of a great clubman whose deeds through Surf Life Saving’s motto really meant vigilant and victorious.

Neil will be remembered as a gentleman who loved to tell the odd story. He loved socialising and to be surrounded by family and friends. With Neil’s passing goes seven decades of Surf Life Saving involvement. Neil played a momentous part of our proud 108-year history within the Collaroy Surf life Saving Club. He will be dearly missed. Rest in peace our friend.” said Geoff

Neil was awarded SNB Life Membership in 1980.

Neil passed away on June 30th, 2019. He was aged 90.


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