Stan Tilley in 1996 with Olympic medal winner Petria Thomas in Mullumbimby.
Stan Tilley in 1996 with Olympic medal winner Petria Thomas in Mullumbimby.

Legendary swim coach dies at 84

LEGENDARY Ballina swimming coach Stan Tilley died on Tuesday afternoon after a short illness, just days before his 85th birthday.

The man who trained and nurtured North Coast Olympians Petria Thomas, Adam Pine and Dyana Calub was highly respected in Australian swimming circles.

But as proud as he was of his star pupils, he also proudly taught hundreds of local children to swim.

Stan was born in Ipswich on July 31, 1925, and met his future wife, Leila, when they were just 15 years old.

The couple married on August 30, 1947, in St Paul’sAnglican Church in Ipswich.

Stan was aged 22 and Leila 21.

They had two children, Greg and Karen, and lived in the outer western Sydney suburb of Richmond for 16 years, where Stan served as a physical training instructor with the Royal Australian Air Force.

In 1974 the family moved to Ballina.

Stan quickly developed a reputation as a top swimming coach, turning the Ballina Indoor Club into one of the best in NSW.

It was there that he turned a young Petria Thomas, formerly of Mullumbimby, into a gold medal-winning swimmer.

Last night Petria told The Northern Star she would miss her old coach.

“He was like another grandfather to me,” she said.

“Stan helped me so much with my swimming, and he was an extremely passionate man.

“He was a great person.

“Swimming, and his family, is what kept him going.”

His children agreed.

Greg said coaching and teaching children to swim had been his father’s life-long passion.

“Dad probably saved hundreds of lives through his learn to swim classes,” he said. “He loved it.”

He also loved his family, especially his late wife.

“Mum and dad were married for 60 years and their love was really something to aspire to,” Karen said.

“Now they are together again.”

Instead of retiring, Stan held classes in his backyard pool – something he continued doing until he was 80.

It was then that he decided, along with Leila, that it was time to move to Ballina’s Crowley aged-care facility.

Stan is survived by his children, Greg and Karen,seven grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren.

His funeral will be held in St Mary’s Anglican Church, Ballina, at 1pm on Monday.



20-50mm of rain possible by the end of this week

20-50mm of rain possible by the end of this week

Some much-needed rain will "likely” fall across the Northern Rivers

'It was the most awful day of my life'

premium_icon 'It was the most awful day of my life'

Shark attack victim was saved by his mates

Local Partners