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“Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon”

If you’ve not heard of the game or idea that you’re only “6 degrees away from Kevin Bacon” or the “Bacon Law”, it refers to the fact that the Hollywood actor Kevin Bacon can be linked to almost everybody on earth through “six degrees of separation”. Which is largely a concept that proposes that any two people on Earth can be linked through six or fewer acquaintances.

So I’m here to add a new game, which applies to any surf lifesaver and that’s “Three degrees of Rush”. But before I get there and why this is relevant is to highlight the extreme importance of the local community and your connection to it. Being ‘connected’ doesn’t just have to equate to free “State of Origin” tickets, or free drinks at the races. Being ‘connected’ makes life exponentially easier to navigate.

Being connected means you have a network of people who you know and can trust. People who come with a recommendation and can allow you to source assistance in all manner of areas. It might be recommendations for schools, for a tradie, a doctor, a physio and the list goes on. But imagine not being connected at all. Not knowing anyone, not having anyone who you can ask for help, who you can find out if the person inside your house installing a bathroom can be trusted. That’s what being socially isolated feels like. That’s what it feels like to be alone. That’s what all too often can happen to families living with special needs as they continually are unable to do what other families in the local area do. Are unable to meet new people and so become ‘dis-connected’ and socially isolated.

Community groups, Church groups, sports clubs and Surf Clubs are for so many of us a way to connect with the community. A way to meet people who live around you, but also connect with those that live further afield through associated friends and connections.

Throughout my entire life it’s these community connections that have led me to meet friends, start businesses, hire staff and for the purpose of this story, unnecessarily harass celebrities.

Growing up as a nipper at Met Caloundra on the Sunshine coast was a way that I was, un-beknown to me at the time, building connections. As a Brissy kid, or Briso as often labelled, I had a group of school and swimming friends where I lived, but then an hour north on the Bruce highway, I had an entirely new set of friends from the surf club. Friends that lived completely different lives to me. Lives that involved surfing before and after school, and not requiring in some instances an hour commute to get to school.

But as a member of the nipper program very early on we were introduced to the Surf Clubs team manager, Peter. A fantastic guy who had kids a little older than me, but who had seen them through the surf club and was back volunteering to keep the new brigade of athletes, and at times parents on the straight and narrow. Ironically Peter and his wife Roseanne ended up being our neighbours at Caloundra after my parents bought a holiday unit for the family to stay between nipper Sundays.

On a few surf trips and traveling to various beaches and carnivals we learned that Roseanne's brother was an actor and I swear at the time I remarked, an actor?, “wow that’s cool”. To which Roseanne replied, “it’s not cool, it’s tough, it’s long hours and they never make any money”.

Which is no doubt the sentiments that many actors’ family and friends share. The year was 1988-9 and she was almost certainly correct for her brother who had landed some minor Australian TV and film roles.

Fast forward to 1996 and that same brother is now an Academy award winner. That brother is Geoffrey Rush and while made famous for his Academy Award winning role as David Helfgott in the movie Shine, he’s more commonly now known, at least by his younger fans, as Captain Barbossa in the Pirates of the Caribbean. But as the husband of a Speech Pathologist and seeing the amazing work that profession can so silently, pardon the pun, achieve, I’d have to say his role as a Speech Pathologist in “The Kings Speech” is my favourite.

By this stage, 1996, we had moved away from Met Caloundra surf club and I was continuing my Surf Lifesaving journey on the Gold Coast in Tugun Surf club. But upon hearing that my old neighbour was Geoffrey Rush’s sister. Well like any good Aussie, all of a sudden I was connected to him. I’d definitely be his mate if we ever met, I knew it, he’d know it….maybe.

So some 4 years later it was time to put that to the test. Having recently graduated as a physio I was incredibly fortunate to be able to be a volunteer Physio at the Sydney Olympics and even better at the Sydney Olympic pool. What was so special about this was there were a number of swimmers in the Aussie swim team who I was close friends with, had swum with and against. It was incredible to be there on pool deck and share with them and the amazing crowd some life changing experiences. Once they stopped competing, the partying started, and ‘when in Rome’, well let’s face it, it would have been rude to not join them.

It was now that I would put this true connection to the test. On this particular night I found myself at a News Limited party, sharing the bar with superstar athletes and TV personalities. But tucked away in one corner was Geoffrey Rush, now he was a ‘mega star’ at this point, Hollywood actor, Academy award winner and well given I lived next door to his sister on our holidays at Caloundra, basically my best mate.

So gently encouraged by my Olympic swimming peers, and a ‘skin full’ of beers, I made my way over to Geoffrey, I mean Geoff to me, but Geoffrey to the rest of you. It’s fair to say it didn’t play out in reality like it had previously in my head. Over the loud music, no doubt my ramblings and possible swaying he just gave me a wry smile and shook my hand. Probably fearful that he was about to be harmed by a crazed stalker. But he remained cool and pleasant and we parted ways. So you could basically say we were mates now, and well in my mind at least, we have remained as close as we ever were !

Jokes aside it’s an example though of connections and how being apart of the local sporting clubs, teams and organisations allows you to meet new people. But you can’t do this if your socially isolated and you can’t do this if you don’t feel like you can join that local club.

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