LIKE he has for almost 20 years, Wanda Surf Life Saving Club patron Ernest "Solly" Stephens, OAM — Australia's smallest senior surf lifesaver — will again travel to Japan to help teach the Japanese how to survive in the surf; and save others who can't.
His mates joke the veteran competition official keeps going back because it is the only country where he can still buy clothes "off the rack".
But few know that when he returns to Sutherland Shire he'll prepare his own home to house another group of Japanese youngsters, for several weeks at a time, where he teaches them the intricacies of lifesaving.
Stephens, who keeps the ravages of age from his door by swimming in the surf every day, and competes in Wanda's weekly Veterans Surf Race in summer, owns a sizeable Cronulla home but gives most of it over to the Japanese youths, while he sleeps in a small, darker section of the house.
So it wasn't surprising to see a Who's Who of surf lifesaving, and state and local government officials among the 200-odd family, friends and competitors — young and old — who attended his 80th birthday celebrations at Wanda on Sunday.
He was honoured with the International Life Saving Federation's Citation of Merit in recognition of his years of service to surf lifesaving, and he received many telegrams from all corners of the globe, including one that "Solly" will treasure for a long time.
It came from an official of the Yugawara Life Saving Club in Japan, which "Solly" helped to set up, and, naturally, carries Wanda's famous colours — air force blue, army red and navy blue.
It read: "If it wasn't for you Solly, I would have drowned many years ago. Thank you so much."
Lewis to the Sharks
JOHNATHAN Thurston from the Cowboys to Penrith, Luke Lewis from Penrith to the Sharks, Jeremy Smith from the Sharks back to the Dragons. Don't be against it.
Even before Lewis asked for an out from the Panthers, after he was stripped of the captaincy, there were rumours he wanted to join Cronulla where good mates Wade Graham and Penrith flyer Michael Gordon will be next season.
Jeremy Smith, with a new baby and renovated home on the south coast, would be happier about training where he lives. His chronic knee won't last forever. And rumours that Thurston wants out of the last year of his contract also continue to grow.
INFLUENZA claimed Sharks outside backs Colin Best and Isaac Gordon before Monday night's game, but at least three other "diseased" Sharks played.
More credit to the side minus five players, including their back row, that they hung on for a 14-all draw with the Roosters, especially after losing Ben Ross midway through the second half.
One dropped ball four minutes from full time, on top of a poor decision six minutes earlier — to go for a penalty goal when the Roosters were on the ropes with only two points the difference — cost the Sharks a win.
LEADER photographer Chris Lane made his mark in glitzy Las Vegas.
As the only Australian adult competing in the first Kenpo Karate International Championships, involving 150 competitors from nine countries, he won a silver medal for sparring in his purple to brown belt (70-75kilogram) division.