Wally’s years of work recognised with Community Volunteer of the Year award

By Meg Saultry

So, it’s little surprise Wally has been presented this year’s Community Award for his work as a volunteer in Benalla.

Admitting he first thought the nomination was a hoax, Wally said it was very humbling to receive the award after finding out someone did indeed put him forward for the honour.

“To find out someone’s actually nominated me, I’m pretty proud of that,” Wally said.

“You don’t do these things for awards, so I’m quite lost for words.”

As a sportstar in his own right, Wally has represented Benalla in basketball, cricket, soccer and football over the years.

“As a kid, you were always playing outside, it was a way of life,” he said.

With his playing days now behind him, Wally has turned his attentions to coaching with the hope of giving back to his community.

“My love of sport now is when your body gives way and you can’t do anymore, you want to put back in,” he said.

“There was a lot of people who volunteered back in my playing days, so that’s why you put in, it goes the other way.”

And it seems Wally’s put his hand up for every role under the sun, coaching junior and senior cricket, as well as several football teams with the Benalla Saints, Benalla All Blacks, Tatong, and numerous representative sides. Two thirds premierships and a senior flag with the Saints are among the highlights for Armstrong, while he has also undertaken the presidency at the All Blacks and the Benalla Basketball Association.

Now coaching the Benalla Breakers in the CBL, Armstrong said he hoped to finish the work of those who came before him so basketball really prospers in Benalla.

“We’re in the early stages with what we want to do in basketball. We’ve got some great people behind the scenes doing great work,” he said.

As for the future, Wally said he’d love to see Benalla’s Indoor Recreation Centre become a destination spot for the region.

“I’d love to see us push for two new courts, and in the master plan, there are also squash courts,” he said.

“If you made a multi-purpose stadium, you can use it for a lot of things.

“We can host state league basketball and netball as well as concerts, and the town would also prosper.”

Wally thanked his wife Kate for all she has done supporting him and their three children, as well as his own mother, who brought up four kids on a single parent’s pension. 

“I am what I am today because of what she’s done for us as kids,” Wally said.

Wally also acknowledged two local identities, Russell Marshall and John Martiniello, who he said were father figures and mentors to him.

He also thanked GMCU for the award, as well as those behind the scenes at every sporting club in Benalla.

“The quiet achievers who just go about their business with no fanfare, they are the true soul of any club,” he said.

GMCU Branch Manager Jenni Cogger said it was vital to support the biggest supporters of the community, our volunteers.

"Wally’s a wonderful example of people who care and what a difference they can make to young people’s lives," Cogger said.

"It’s great to see someone whose lived in Benalla and supports Benalla in so many ways be acknowledged.”