Northern Beaches year in sport

INTEGRAL: Inside Back columnist Adam Lucius interviews Shane Warne and left, golf prodigy Jack Castle and super-coach Brad Fittler with his llamas. Pictures: Geoff Jones

INTEGRAL: Inside Back columnist Adam Lucius interviews Shane Warne and left, golf prodigy Jack Castle and super-coach Brad Fittler with his llamas. Pictures: Geoff Jones

For more than a century, the exploits of our northern beaches' sporting talent was written up, celebrated and often framed for posterity.

You name it, it was reported on. From Manly's eight rugby league grand final wins to the Warringah Rats' breakthrough Shute Shield triumph, to world surfing titles and gold medal joy at the Olympic Games. When one of ours walked out in a baggy green to represent Australia, pulled on a gold Wallabies (or Wallaroos) jumper or took on the planet's best at football's World Cup, everyone on the peninsula knew about it.

And when a local kid or sporting team did something extraordinary, there was the big write-up and photo for grandma to cut out and stick in the scrapbook. You can't beat having something tangible in print to last a lifetime.

Something was missing and when I heard the Northern Beaches Review was launching in print - as well as online - I was immediately keen to be involved.

I knew sport would be an integral part of the publication because it touches so many people on the northern beaches. If there's been a more successful area in Australia for producing champions from such a wide variety of sports, I'd like to hear about it.

NBR editor Kate Cox took a punt on the column you are now reading - Inside Back - despite the rolling lockdowns. Indeed, just as we were getting on a roll, lockdown No.3 hit in late June, ceasing all local sport and forcing the Sea Eagles to fly north to Queensland for the rest of the season. Not great news when you've got to fill a 1000-word column each week.

But I should have known not to worry. It didn't take much digging around to find a few gems - and there was no shortage of informants willing to send me a covert text or a sneaky 'you didn't get it from me' email.

While the magnificent Tommy Turbo and his Sea Eagles took us on a magical ride - and the Olympics and Paralympics enthralled us for a month - it was the grassroots stories that shone through.

There was eight-year-old golf sensation Jack Castle, who carded his first hole-in-one the week he appeared on this very page. At the other end of the age spectrum, 71-year-old Tina Armour made her debut appearance in print after becoming the first female awarded life membership of the Manly 16ft Skiff Club.

In between lockdowns, old sparring partners the Marlins and Rats came together to celebrate 50 years of rivalry. More than 700 turned up for the Tony 'Slaggy' Miller local derby lunch at Miramare Gardens in June. The stories are still being told from arguably the Beaches' greatest sporting function.

Sadly, we said goodbye to some giants of peninsula sport. Rugby league Immortal Bob Fulton was given a state funeral just months after we farewelled his old skipper and larrikin Fred Jones. Local rugby identities Paul Fenn, Jon Carroll, Peter Frize, Russell 'Rusty' Mackie and Chris Humphrey lost their brave battles with illness and the local surf lifesaving and rugby league community mourned the loss of that great character Graeme 'Zombie' Knox. Many of these remarkable lives would have gone unreported to the wider public if not for the local paper.

A personal favourite was the splash we did on footballing great George Best's little-known visit to Cromer Park to play for Dee Why against Manly in 1983. Best was paid a $5000 appearance fee but had to fight - almost literally - to receive his cash in a brown paper bag. That article created a great deal of discussion, as did our cover story on NSW Origin coach BradFittler before this year's series. Sydney's rugby league media had been hounding Freddy for years to let them roam his semi-rural Terrey Hills property and talk about his pet llamas and crops. The Northern Beaches Review was the only publication he opened the gates for.

So, a big congratulations to Australian Community Media for taking a punt on a local publication at such a challenging time for media organisations around the world. And to hard-working Kate, ever-enthusiastic reporter Nadine Morton, unflappable photographer Geoff Jones and the team in sales, well doneon making it through the first year-and let's make year two even better!

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