Former Geraldton import PHILIP MARTIN established and runs Abrolhos Steel, the big name in Mid-West steel.
Philip is no stranger to the city and the water polo pool and boating circles.
Philip established the branch nearly 20 years ago when it was called Steelmark/Smorgon’s and remained at the helm for four years before shifting to Perth and Tamworth and back to Perth.
The former British water polo international who made a name in Western Australia when he became the first swimmer to tackle and conquer the Rottnest Channel swim with the butterfly stroke, says he is more well known in Geraldton for a singular failure.
“We were out boating one day with Dave Shea and the boat sank. There was Dave’s insurance broker on board so he was well covered and we were lucky enough to be rescued by Geoff Watson, of Geraldton Trophy Centre, who was fishing from his catamaran nearby.
“It was incredible how many bungs I was given by friends and now that I am back it’s amazing what people remember and don’t let you forget,” Martin said.
On taking over the reins of the business, Philip said: “I saw this as an excellent chance to renew acquaintances and establish my mark on the steel industry in which I have been involved for about 20 years, both in Western Australia and Queensland.
“I started the branch and jumped at the opportunity to become involved in the region once again.”
The new company started trading on October 1, 2015 and the changeover was seamless with the office and warehouse staff being retained. It has since been renamed Albrolhos Steel, more in keeping with the region.
“I see an excellent future for the metal industry in the Mid-West, the gates are open to allow for ease of access for customers and I believe we have plenty of support for what is a locally run-and-owned business.”
Philip said that it has been good playing water polo with long-standing friends and plays in the local competition, while committing himself to Rotary, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry and other business groups.
Some people will do anything for a bit of sunshine.
In CRAIG BURNETT’s case it was to travel from the other side of the world to find his little slice of heaven.
The task was not that easy. He knew Australia was the place to be, but it took him five years to settle on Geraldton as his idea of utopia. “It’s beautiful all-year-round weather with friendly people.”
Craig, who deals with all the deliveries for BluSteel and can be seen behind the steering wheel of the truck around the city, says Geraldton is “the perfect town to live in by the ocean”.
That sunshine was something he saw little of in his native Scotland, hailing from the city of Fife.
Craig has been at the depot from the start of operations nearly 15 years ago and says he loves his job. “That’s the best part of the job. I love it.”
He says that dealing with engineers or the small handyman, and everyone in between made the job more satisfying.
Craig brought South African-born wife Lynette from Scotland — they met there — and now have two children — son Lewis (14) and daughter Hannah (12).
Craig’s not much on fishing or golf, satisfying himself by pottering around the home or working in his shed, making things. His latest project was to put a motor on his son’s pushbike, “but it didn’t quite go as expected”.
His children have been avid sailors and he and Lynette have supported them in their recreation.
Other than that, he and Lynette like travel, mainly to catch up with relatives in Scotland and South Africa.
Relaxing at home with friends, walking the dog on the beach and day trips out of town for lunch are other frequent past-times.
Sales Coordinator CASEY RUTHERFORD loves the outdoors and is a movie buff when she is not dealing with customer requests.
The longest-serving member of the team at Abrolhos Steel, Casey has been in the steel game since she left school.
“I worked for Smorgon’s Steel when I was 19 and I have continued my journey in the steel industry since then. I moved to Geraldton in 2004 and started working for Smorgon’s Steel and have been here ever since. I’ve seen all the changes from Smorgon’s right through to Albrolhos Steel.”
Casey hails from Tasmania but left when she was eight as her father was in mining. “We moved to Kalgoorlie because of my dad’s and work we travelled a lot — Newman, Parkes and Orange in New South Wales and Perth. We moved back to Kalgoorlie where I finished my schooling.”
Casey has seen many changes in the industry. “I’ve seen some highs and lows and we’re coming up from a low, I believe. People have got to start keeping their money in Gero, otherwise we just won’t survive. We have to buy in Gero. Gero’s a great place to live. Of all the places I’ve lived, Gero is the one I love the most. It’s great for bringing up children.”
She is married to Jonty Rutherford and they have two young boys — Hamish (2) and Lucas (6).
“Having children is a lot of fun and also very challenging, especially when I am balancing a working life. I’ve been blessed with the people who help me do that.”
Casey numbers many interests in her life away from Abrolhos Steel.
“I like anything outdoors — camping and fishing, travel. I love a good barbecue with a bit of AC-DC. I love spending time with my family. I enjoy all sports, like netball, go to the gym often and I have an artistic flair. I’m good at painting and drawing. I have an interior design certificate, so I like being creative and would like to take up painting when I have a less demanding home life.
“I also love movies, especially action/adventure and thrillers and scary movies. Anything that gets your heart racing, I really enjoy.”
Casey and her family enjoy camping around Geraldton and up to Shark Bay.
On overseas travel, she says: “I’ve been to Malaysia (not a good experience) and my husband’s country, New Zealand, which I just adore.”
Mick Rocks. Just ask him. MICK ROCK is the Abrolhos Steel Warehouse Manager and has been at the depot for 12 years, watching the swings and roundabouts of the economic cycle.
“I’ve seen the boom and bust with people going mad when it’s good and then the quiet times when it’s a lot more subdued.”
Born and bred in Geraldton, Mick was educated at Mt Tarcoola Primary, then John Willcock and for two years at Wesley College in Perth. A born athlete, Mick has risen to national selection with the Australian Country water polo team on numerous occasions and was a former State schoolboy rep.
Mick still plays A Grade for B52’s and is a life member of the club. He has played A Grade since a 14-year-old — more than 25 years — and has represented Geraldton at the State Country Champs every year except when he spent four years travelling the world. Surfing is another love, hitting the waves off Geraldton on an almost weekly basis.
He has also surfed in Indonesia, USA, Portugal and England. “It’s a lifestyle thing and probably the thing I love doing the most outside family (wife, daughter and son) and water polo.”
Storeman KEN MURRAY loves to catch a fish from time to time and finds Geraldton just the place for pulling up the four-wheel-drive vehicle and throwing a line off the beach.
Motorbike riding is also a pursuit, but the lure of the beach and sunshine culture led the wandering Ken to the Coral Coast.
Hailing from country New South Wales, Ken worked for 13 years with a fabrication workshop as a driver in Tuncurry-Forster and lived in nearby Taree.
Before that he gained a buzz from eight years in a sawmill. Other work experience includes fencing and shed fabrication.
Ken sees life in Geraldton and bringing on board his extensive experience to Abrolhos Steel as the next chapter in his chequered working career.
“Geraldton is right on the beach and not too far from the big-city amenities of Perth,” he says.
“The staff at Abrolhos Steel have made me welcome. They are good people and it’s a good company and there’s plenty of work to do.”
Customer Service Officer GARRY GROVES likes life in the fast lane, especially when it comes to hot music and swanky cars.
Garry’s interests include hot rods and fast cars.
Garry has been with the company since early 2014 and comes from a background of sales and warehousing, starting off at timber yards when he was 18.
He has extensive experience in the timber and hardware industries and now steel. At one stage he was the north-west rep for a large multi-national firm operating from Gingin to Derby
Garry enjoys assisting customers. “Basically, when people ring up, we find what they are looking for and get it at the right price. Sometimes it means sourcing unusual things and then we supply it. It’s about making sure they get what they want, when they want it.
“We deal with everyone in the industry in the city and we also can help the mums and dads when they have a job on or need advice. If it’s steel, we can get it. We deal in different grades of steel, machining and stainless steel. We can get anything for the customer.
“Sometimes there’s something new you haven’t seen before. People throw a curve ball. Our customers are really good and some just phone in the morning for a chat. There’s always something new.”
Garry is married to Natalie with two boys, 15 and 10, and that takes up a lot of his time.
PHIL DUNNING is the latest person to join the ranks of Albrolhos Steel, bringing a wealth of knowledge in the industry.
Phil spent 23 years at OneSteel in Geraldton between 1994-2017, among an impressive CV.
Before that he was working for 12 years at Iluka’s mine at Eneabba.
Further back and he spent 10 years with Westrail at Yalgoo when the line was still running.
“I saw that close, then went to Three Springs, on to Esperance and then to Salmon Gums before heading to Eneabba.”
Phil hails from Cossack near Port Samson, so has remained close to his roots.
His OneSteel career started in the store, progressed to truck driving, the office, out on the road for 12 years as a rep and back into the office as the sales manager. He relieved in Karratha and Port Hedland when managers were on holidays.
The past two years he has been spotted taxi driving in Geraldton.
“The interaction with people is what I love – talking with people and helping to solve problems. Taxi driving was good for meeting people. You do get to create a lot of friendships; people rely on you. I like the interaction. I don’t mind sales.”
When Phil’s not on the phone boosting for orders, he loves fishing and lawn bowls.
“Lex is my partner and I have three older kids and two stepkids who keep me busy.”
Phjl describes his perfect day as: “Lighting a camp fire, drinking a beer and laying under the stars.”
He says he best does this at Carrarang Station, four and a half hours’ drive north of Geraldton.