Bernie Shakeshaft is more at home in the paddock than on a podium but has found himself among the finalists in the Australian of the Year Awards.
The former Gunnedah youth officer and BackTrack Youth Works' founder is one of four nominees vying for the 2020 NSW Local Hero award. The announcement will be made on Monday.
Mr Shakeshaft has been recognised for his life's work helping youth get back on track through a unique program established in Armidale in 2016.
But Mr Shakeshaft said he remained unchanged.
"I've got good people around me to give me a good ear twist if I get too big for my boots," he said.
"It's a difficult process. You share so much about your personal life and what you do. You have to find that balance.
"The important thing is to spread that message that there are solutions, that things can shift."
When he looks back at where it all began, with "a handful of kids and a handful of volunteers in a busted old tin shed, no funding, no plans", he said "I shake head in disbelief".
"It is a bit surreal, [but] we just get up and go and do our job the best we can," he said.
Would I like to be just going back and working with kids personally? Of course, but our dream is to help as many kids having a hard time as possible.Bernie Shakeshaft, BackTrack Youth Works
As word of the program's success spreads, there is increasing interest in the concept and the BackTrack team is now "mentoring other communities".
"[After] the documentary, we've got something like 120 communities asking us to come and help them start something. [They say], 'We've got a problem and we need to look at some sort of solutions'," Mr Shakeshaft said.
"The need is growing at a massive rate. It's scary. Kids [at risk] are getting younger everywhere."
Mr Shakeshaft said "there's no question" there would be further expansion - "we call that 'Backtrack Everywhere'" - and the program has already been established in towns like Dubbo and Broken Hill.
His time is even more in demand and he has found himself sitting down with politicians and even travelling to America to explore new educational models.
"It's about providing the right opportunities and continue having the conversations ... I've no doubt there's a shift going on at the moment and people are looking into more flexible approaches," he said.
"My preference is to kick around in the paddocks with the dogs and the kids, but it's one of those things you've got to do - part and parcel.
"Would I like to be just going back and working with kids personally? Of course, but our dream is to help as many kids having a hard time as possible."
Funding is still an issue and Mr Shakeshaft said 95 per cent of the finances to run BackTrack came from donations or income generated by the organisation.
"We have to fight every inch of the way for funding," he said.
"It's tough, but in some respects it's getting easier - recognition, reputation and success - and people like backing winners."