THIS FORMER RUGBY LEAGUE IDENTITY SCORED THE WINNING TRY IN A LEGENDARY GRAND FINAL. NOW HE’S LIVING A NEW DREAM ON THE GOLD COAST
Icome from the little town of Scone in country New South Wales. I have one sister but grew up in a big extended family with five aunties, two uncles and a tribe of kids. I started doing Little Athletics at five years old and playing footy with the Scone Thoroughbreds at six. Back home, it was athletics in the summer and footy in the winter. I was a runner, more a sprinter really. As I got older, the distances got shorter. I went to a few state athletics titles. There were some good athletes at my school and we could put together some competitive relay teams.
At school, I always wanted to join the air force to be a pilot. Footy was just for fun.
I went to Sydney for a couple of interviews with the air force and when I got to the last round, they didn’t think I’d get the marks on my HSC.
I suppose I just fell into footy after that. The Newcastle Knights rang the school to ask if there were any kids who wanted to come and trial with them. The sports master put a few names forward and in 1994 I was playing Jersey Flegg Under 19s for the Knights.
There were a couple of us from the district who made the train-on squad and we’d share lifts to training. It was a big step up for us from playing country footy.
Weights training didn’t exist in Scone. I was 69kg as an 18-year-old and they told me I needed to put on weight. I started doing weights training and tried to eat more and I managed to put on 10kg.
We had a pretty good team that year and I scored a few tries. At the end of the Under 21s Jersey Flegg season, they asked me to stay on to sit on the reserve bench for Reserve Grade and the next year, I went to sitting on the bench for first grade.
I played my first ARL game in 1996 in Perth against the Western Reds. The crowd wasn’t exactly packed over there but it was a great experience.
I played for the Newcastle Knights from 1996 to 2001. It was the era of the Johns brothers, Paul Harragon, Tony Butterfield, Matthew Gidley. And, yes, I scored the winning try in the 1997 grand final against Manly. Most rugby league people seem to remember that.
At the end of 2001, I went to play footy for St Helens in England and absolutely loved it. You got to play in more positions over there and I played a bit of full back.
We had a lot of rep players in our team and won the 2002 Super League grand final and a Challenge Cup. I was there for four years and came back to play a final NRL season with Cronulla in 2006 before I retired.
Even when I was in England, I always had it in my mind that I’d love to live on the Gold Coast one day. I used to come for holidays. I moved here with a bit of savings from footy and enjoyed life for a while before I had to think about real life.
I worked for a mate’s civil earthworks company at Dysart for 18 months and got a job with a company doing work for exhibitions and displays.
I’d done an electrical apprenticeship during my time playing reserve grade with Newcastle which I managed to fit in with training. Of course a lot had changed so I had to do a bit of retraining to update it all.
I married my wife Tammie in 2012. She’s a born and bred Gold Coast girl. It was through someone my mother-in-law knew that I got a job doing electrical work at Gold Coast Airport. I’m the electrical systems supervisor these days and doing a Masters of Business Administration part-time through Southern Cross Uni to get management qualifications and see where that leads.
We’ve got two beautiful kids now, Lucas who’s four and Lily who is one. I think if any of them were likely to play footy, it would probably be Lily. Lucas might be an actor or something. They’re both great kids.
There are big expansion plans for the airport over the next five years.
It’s a pretty exciting time. It’s funny how it works out — I didn’t get to fly planes with the air force but ended up being around them every day anyway.
“AT SCHOOL, I ALWAYS WANTED TO JOIN THE AIR FORCE TO BE A PILOT. FOOTY WAS JUST FOR FUN.”