DAR­REN AL­BERT

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

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Gold Coast Eye - - PEOPLE EYE - AS TOLD TO DENISE RAWARD

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.”

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