IT'S winter, so Chris Dempsey is missing cricket.
Now 84 and retired at Manning Point, Chris has been involved with cricket since he moved to Australia from England when he was 16.
"I just love the game. The camaraderie, the sportsmanship; it's a great game for the kids and that's probably the main thing,'' Chris said.
He's been rewarded for his devotion to the sport in this year's Queen's Birthday Honours List. Chris has received an OAM for Services to Cricket.
"It's a surprise, a shock really,'' he said of the OAM.
"I don't think anyone does these things for the rewards. Being involved with cricket is reward enough in itself.''
During summer Saturday is cricket day for Chris. He's still on the Manning District Junior Cricket Association committee while he's the groundsman for the turf wicket at the Chris Dempsey Field at Old Bar - the ground named in his honour about 12 years ago.
But with cricket in recess until October, Chris admits he's a bit lost.
"I sometimes go down to the ground to mow the grass and make sure everything's still there,'' he laughs.
Yet cricket wasn't a big deal when he was growing up in the north of England.
"It was all football. We didn't have a county side, so we didn't really follow cricket,'' he explained.
That changed when he emigrated to Australia with his family in 1953.
"I started playing with North Parramatta Methodist Cricket Club in the NSW Churches competition,'' Chris said.
"A few mates I went to church with asked me to have a game and I started in 1955. I was soon hooked and I still haven't been able to throw away that hook.''
Describing himself as a bowling allrounder, Chris later linked with Roselea Cricket Club in Sydney. He played A-grade with the club for many years and was a long-term captain.
"I eventually told them them they had to find another captain, I was getting old and wanted to drop down to the lower grades. So my young bloke, Peter, took over,'' Chris smiled.
Chris earlier became heavily involved with junior administration and coaching when Peter started playing. He coached representative sides in NSW junior competitions from 1976 to '92. He served at various times as secretary and vice president with Roselea CC while he was made a life member in 1992. He was the senior vice president with the Northern District Cricket Association from 1989-91.
He'd holidayed in the Manning area for some years - usually in the winter months because of cricket commitments in the summer.
"I built a weekender at Manning Point and we eventually decided to move here, why wouldn't you, it's a beautiful part of the world,'' he said.
He didn't stay away from cricket for too long though.
"My wife started playing tennis at Old Bar and mentioned they had a cricket club there.''
So at the age of 54 Chris was coerced into making a comeback, playing with Old Bar's C-grade side.
"One year I won the association's bowling award and they even wanted to regrade me to B-grade, although I said no way. I ended up playing five or six years here,'' he said.
He wondered why Old Bar didn't have any junior teams and was told there weren't enough kids in the area.
"Then we were practising at the nets one day when training started for the junior football teams. Kids came out of the woodwork,'' he recalled.
"The next summer I started an under 10s side at Old Bar and things have gone from there.''
He's served as president and secretary with Old Bar while he's still the treasurer. Chris was made a life member in 2010.
Chris became heavily involved with Manning Junior Cricket Association on the committee and as a coach along with the Manning Cricket Association and the umpires' association. He umpired A-grade games for many years.
At one point he coached future NSW Sheffield Shield batsman Nick Larkin in a Manning junior rep team.
"Nick and his brother, Ben, I coached them both. I actually thought Ben was the better player at that stage, Nick would go out and try and hit the first ball for six, Ben would take his time and build an innings,'' he said.
"But they were both very good, so was David Miller.''
He's also a life member of the Manning senior and junior associations.
Chris was heavily involved with the establishment of the turf wicket at Old Bar and spends hours preparing the deck during summer.
"Sometimes Bryan Lambert from the umpires' association gives me a call to see if I can do the game at Old Bar in the afternoon. I'm there anyway with the juniors, so I stay on, although at my age it's a long day standing on my feet.''
Even though he's originally from England, Chris will be supporting Australia in next summer's Ashes.
"Definitely.'' he emphasised.
"I'm an Australian now.''
And he has an OAM to prove it.