MIKE Eden played rugby league at the highest level in Sydney in the early 1980s.
He was and still remains slight of build and how he survived and thrived through 112 first grade matches is a minor miracle in an era remembered in some quarters for its sheer brutality.
Week in, week out he was pitted against opponents far bigger and stronger, but was still able to capture the NSWRL equivalent of the Brownlow Medal in 1983.
Fast forward almost three decades and Mr Eden is coming to the end of a bruising experience of a different kind as the administrator of Federation Council, which was the marriage of Corowa and Urana shires, a union he largely brought together.
The role has been no popularity contest.
Critics, mostly former councillors, have voiced concerns about a lack of skin in the local government game.
Also, a shoot from the hip style more suited to Bondi than Balldale has been another knock.
Mr Eden was seemingly content building up his own legal firm in Albury after moving to the area in 2010 with his wife Karena and their son Will, 12, before finding his way into local politics.
The NSW Government selected him as the man to make the merger happen in an appointment which immediately set tongues wagging he was being groomed for future honours at state or federal level locally.
Mr Eden publicly backed the Cleanaway proposal in the lead-up to the meeting and he soon inherited the mantle of public enemy No.1 in Howlong at least.
Discontent remained raw at the June public meeting on the compost facility in Howlong when nearly every second one of the 62 local residents who registered to speak directed an unflattering barb in his direction.
He also discovered how politically sensitive public swimming pools are to a small community.
Corowa’s pool is in dire need of a birthday, but a replacement keeps finding its way onto the back-burner due in part to a shortfall of cash to build the new civic centre.
Again, he encountered some community kick-back to the point where the final option will be decided by incoming councillors much to his frustration.
The Urana area has felt unloved from the moment the merger was consummated with the biggest beef being no wards in the final blueprint for the future.
Urana is dwarfed by the larger population centres of Corowa, Howlong and Mulwala and come election day it becomes a simple numbers game.
Also, former Urana general manager Adrian Butler has departed before the administration period with the Corowa general manager Chris Gillard assuming the No.1 role in the new entity.
But even his harshest critics would have to concede there have been positives in his reign.
Fiona Schirmer, who spent almost two decades in local government and served on an advisory panel in the administrator era, said Mr Eden tenure had been a success.
“The fact he has learnt, absorbed and made decisions at the level he has with the amount of negativity or challenges thrown out there has been quite extraordinary,” she said.
“Any of the councils which have been amalgamated have had challenges.
“Gundagai lost its administrator and had to get someone else in, but the fact Mike had the stick-ability to be able to get on with the job and still make decisions speaks volumes for his level of service to be honest.
“He has seen everything from a fresh perspective and been able to make decisions accordingly.”
Mr Eden said he knew his time in the job would be short, but he wanted to make a difference.
“I made it clear from the start of my appointment as administrator that I wasn’t in a popularity contest and would not be running for any political position at the end of my tenure,” he said.
“By doing so, this allowed me, when faced with a difficult choice, to make the right decision and not bow to pressure by vocal minorities or those espousing popular unsustainable strategies.
“By focusing on roads and economic development we have a sustainable budget and direction ready for the new councillors.
“In the last 16 months the council staff, under enormous pressure and stress, have worked tirelessly to put in to place positive strategies that recognise, support and promote the efforts and achievements resulting from the merger activities.
“It is wonderful to see that we have a large pool of passionate people standing for the upcoming election, and now as a result our ratepayers and residents will be going to the polls on September 9.”
Former Corowa mayor Fred Longmire has another view on the administrator era.
“Mike had the easiest job in the world due to the goodwill of the two previous councils about a merger,” he said.
“But as events started to unfold the relationship between former councillors, myself included, and the administrator started to break down.”