East Wagga-Kooringal are mourning the loss of "part of the soul of the club" following the death of former premiership player and long-time Hawks identity Jack Keating.
Keating, who was also a two-time premiership player with Turvey Park in the 1960s before making Gumly Oval his home away from home, passed away late on Christmas night after a long battle with illness.
His death sparked a mountain of heartfelt tributes from many in awe of his contribution to EWK.
"It's a sad time. He was a stalwart of the East Wagga footy club and he'll be sadly missed," current president Paul Bourne said.
"He was always around. He was doing the stats when I was playing (in the 1980s), he did that for years and years and years... he used to have to turn the page for Barry Suckling!
"He loved everyone, from all walks of life. It didn't matter who you were or where you came from. That was just Jack. He was a good bloke and a really good contributor to our footy club. A dedicated East Wagga man."
Hawks clubman Ken Reynolds considers himself fortunate to have formed a friendship that lasted nearly 50 years until ill health caught up with Keating.
"I called in and saw him just before Christmas... we did have a laugh, to be honest. The only problem is we still laugh about 1975 jokes," Reynolds said.
"His body was falling apart but his mind was still sharp, I can tell you. But whenever it happens, it's always unexpected. He's been a good mate over the years.
"He led a colourful life but he was a real gem of a bloke... after he finished footy, he stayed at the club and was on the committee and was heavily involved in recruiting and generally keeping the club afloat."
Reynolds recalls Keating saying he took up football late after he lived next door to a Turvey Park coach in Docker Street as a kid.
He was quite a find, playing in two first grade premierships with the powerful Bulldogs, in 1961 and 1963, as well as a reserves flag.
He switched to East Wagga in 1966 at the age of 29 and went on to win a first grade premiership while assistant coach. Keating was also involved in five reserve grade flags with the Hawks and then had an influence on many more successes, and most of their players, through decades.
Former teammate Terry McMillan remembers a remarkably reliable defender. He and the more experienced Keating followed new coach Don Baker from Turvey Park to Gumly.
"He mainly played full-back or centre-half-back. He was a very good player, a pretty good mark, good kick and a good team player. He was very consistent, never played a bad game," McMillan said.
"And he raised a lot of money for the footy club in the old days (after he finished playing).
"That was invaluable because money was a bit hard to come by being a smaller club. Jack's fundraising and recruiting really helped get good players and brought a lot of success to the club.
"He was well known everywhere and pretty well respected by every club."
Keating played his last game of football aged 42 but remained a presence at Gumly for almost four more decades, attending games for as long as he was physically able to.
Through his work as an MLC insurance agent, Keating dealt with the RAAF base and helped the Hawks forge a connection with footballers at the Forest Hill base.
Keating will be fondly remembered. Former EWK president Rob Richards laughs that Jack would've known that he was loved having organised his own 'wake' nearly 10 years ago.
"He got a pretty serious diagnosis and he said, 'If they're telling me I'm not going to be around for long, I'm going to have a wake at Christmas. Because if there's going to be a wake, I want to be there!'
"'Jack's Wake' became an annual thing for a few years."
Richards said Jack was simply a fixture at the club, often recognisable in his 1976 committeeman's cardigan celebrating a Central Riverina League premiership.
But Keating wasn't about making his own presence felt, as much as making sure everyone else was at home.
"Jack loved the club but he wasn't just a supporter. He was part of the soul of the club, the heart of the club," Richards said.
"Jack made it a point to get to know everyone - every new player into the club, whether first grader or the bottom of reserve grade, he made them feel welcome."
Reynolds recalls that his old mate was always a positive influence, never known to bad-mouth anyone and always looking for the positives in every player and everyone.
And Keating couldn't have been more highly respected in return.
"He was very highly thought of. In terms of the amount of effort he put in, it was just amazing," Reynolds said.
"Jack loved a laugh... absolutely hated a beer, and he was the life of the party whenever there was a party.
"He just sort of fitted in (at EWK) and he became part-and-parcel of the scene.
"There was East Wagga, and there was Jack."
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