WHETHER it was in sport, politics or community service, Bill McGrath approached each facet of his life with a determination to get things done.
Mr McGrath’s achievements span from playing in the VFL, to serving as the Member for Lowan and Member for Wimmera, and being appointed to ministerial roles in the Kennett state government.
He also served as Wimmera Football League’s chief commissioner in the 1980s, and was a Wimmera league life member.
His service to Wimmera Legacy and his community in other ways in his later years further exemplified his passion for people and making a difference.
He was a competitor, coach, challenger, motivator, promoter, farmer, entertainer, husband, and dad.
Mr MrGrath died on Wednesday, aged 81.
His youngest daughter Alicia said though her dad entered politics when she was 4, her earliest memories are of quality time with her dad, riding their bikes and running.
“He instilled running as a part of life. He always said you had your best thoughts when you were running,” she said.
“Dad was always there for us. When he was in Melbourne when parliament was sitting, he was on the phone every morning and every night.
“He was renowned for doing the miles. He made sure he was at everything he could possibly be at, even if it meant it was in his own rest time – he was there. He always wanted to be relevant, and stay active in the community.
“I think Dad’s competitive edge, determination and ‘get on and get the job done’ attitude is what led him to achieve all that he has achieved.”
Mr McGrath’s son Shane said his dad was a big-picture person, and his mum Ivy was the detail person.
“Without mum, he wouldn’t have been able to run the gauntlet the way he did,” he said.
“His favourite quote in politics is you grab the football on one side of the pack, you charge through, and you take a few hits and belts on the way through, as long as you come out the other side holding the ball.
“He loved to challenge people, and he was always having a crack to see what you were made of.”
Bill Ower met Mr McGrath in 1972, shortly after Mr Ower moved to Horsham.
It was shortly after that Mr McGrath threw his hat in the political ring.
“I was his campaign manager on a couple of occasions, and had a long working relationship with him. He was a very good friend,” Mr Ower said.
“He was a man of the land, a very straight-talking fellow. He was friendly, prepared to listen, and he gave good representation. It didn’t matter who walked through the door and what side of politics they were on – if they had a problem, he would help them fix it.
“He made the comment to Hugh Delahunty that if you don't wear out two cars a year in the job, you're not working hard enough.
“I'll miss his friendship, and I will also miss the fact he was such a good contributor to the Wimmera and Victoria.”
Wimmera Legacy president Neville Smith said Mr McGrath was highly-regarded.
“He was a strong and motivated fundraiser. He was known for his jokes, and he was warm and hard-working,” he said.
“He revived the Wimmera Legacy fleece competition, and was also the chair of a number of corporate dinners to raise money.
“One thing stood out to me – he made the comment several times that he found his membership in Legacy the most rewarding thing he had done. That speaks very highly of him. He will be greatly missed.”
Member for Lowan Emma Kealy said Mr McGrath often recalled to her the battles he faced in his ministerial roles, and lessons he had learned.
“I also remember Bill’s jokes – some terrible, others worse – but this was just part of the way Bill was always able to engage with all people on any level, on any topic,” she said.
“A true statesman and great country MP, of the people and for the people.”
Nationals leader Peter Walsh said Mr McGrath would leave a lasting legacy.
“Bill was an absolute champion for western Victoria, taking his tough and resilient attitude to his involvement in sport, politics and life,” he said.
“Bill embodied the true values of the National Party with his unwavering advocacy and commitment to regional Victoria.”
Mr McGrath’s life will be celebrated at a state funeral in Horsham on August 29.