14 July 2006

OLDEST SAINT marks the perfect knock.

JOE SHARP, Saint's oldest living player, reached triple figures in excellent health when he celebrated his 100th birthday in April.

About 80 family and friends gathered for his surprise party at his daughters' property at Lisarow near Gosford on Easter Sunday (April 16), 100 years exactly since his birth in the Hunter Valley town of Murrurundi.

"I'm just so pleased for him," Bev Lawrence, Mr Sharp's daughter, said. "He has been a great father and today is to thank him for everything he has done for me." Possessing a gait of a 20-year-old and still agile enough to kick a football presented as a gift from the Dragons, Mr Sharp hopped between guests including his sister, Olive, 93, and brother Aubrey, 90.

"I don't feel much different really," the former second-rower said while being interviewed by NBN Television. "It just makes you appreciate things more." As he has done countless times before, Mr Sharp paid tribute to his wife Violet for providing the care that he attributes his remarkable health and agility to.

"I think it's the good cooking of the wife and good housekeeping," he said. "She kept the meals up and always looked after me. If you get someone good to look after you, I think that's a big factor to longevity in life.

"I still do a bit of moving around cleaning the yard up," he said. "But they (the family) go crook at me when I get up on the roof (to clean the gutters)."

Present to mark Mr Sharp's perfect innings were former railway workmates Alan Watt, Reg Dayes, both 92, and Reg Tate, 81, who were all delighted to see the former Saint for the first time in 35 years.

Their former boss retired as a sub-foreman in 1960 after working on the electrification of lines between Sydney and Gosford, where he bought the block of land that he and Violet still call home today.

"He was a good boss," Mr Tate told the Journal. "He always stayed decent and caring and knew how to handle blokes because he knew how to read you and that's the secret of handling men."

Mr Sharp played 32 First-grade games (including trial matches) for St George during four seasons from 1929-1932. Former Club secretary and NSW Rugby League Vice President Clarrie Fahy recruited him after spotting the rangy forward running around for a railways side at Katoomba in the Blue Mountains in 1928.

"They were all good moments," Mr Sharp recalled of his years with the Saints. "St George was a great club. Snowy Justice was the skipper at the time. He was the hooker - I liked him and I got on well with him." One of ten children, Mr Sharp said he was looking forward to celebrating his wife's 100th birthday in August.

"She will be a hundred soon, so if she achieves that, that will be something because she has always been a good wife," he said. "It's pretty amazing," Melissa Sharp, Joe's granddaughter, said. "It's an amazing achievement and a wonderful opportunity for all the family to get together and I think that would be important to Joe."

Mr and Mrs Sharp, who have two children, seven grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren will extend their Australian record later in the year when they mark 78 years of marriage.

They wed at St Mel's Catholic Church at Campsie on November 17, 1928 when they were both 22.

"Things have changed a lot because there's more life in places today, and I don't know whether it's good or bad," Mr Sharp reflected.

"There was more home life in the olden days, but today there's more out living. For a family I think the olden times are better because the children stopped home and it was more homely and more time."

* Mr Sharp also played three games for Canterbury-Bankstown and is thought to be the oldest living former first-grader.

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