Thursday, October 23, 2008

Remembering Mike Barnett

I heard the sad news today that Mike Barnett, my old rugby coach, collapsed and died last weekend while doing what he loved - standing on the sidelines coaching his rugby team. In these days of pampered and overpaid sportsmen, Mike represented a throwback to simpler times. He gave so much of his time and expertise, not for monetary reward but for the love of the game. Unsung heroes like Mike are the lifeblood of the grassroots that built a small Nation's proud rugby heritage.

It's been 15 years since I played for him but he had a big influence on me. He was a larger than life character who worked hard, played hard and made sure every one of his players felt like world beaters and enjoyed their rugby. Even now I think back with a smile - I remember all too well the infamous 440s that ended every training session, some of the crazy bus trips back from away games, the hilariously off-the-wall stories and the quiet chuckle from the sideline when you put a big hit on your opposite number. I know he's up there somewhere dishing it out to somebody.

The respect and affection in which he was held is evident by some of the comments on his memorial page. Here are some that struck a chord with me.

"On this planet we are not blessed with many people who make a difference to so many peoples lives. They are very few and far between. Mike Barnett was one of those people."

"A true character, a passionate coach, a loving family man."

"I used to dread the little chuckle at the end of a training session with him saying get in the corner boys. We all knew what that meant with the dreaded 440's but it got us fit and won us many of games in the last quarter."

"He was and always will be a true legend"

"Mike was a larger than life character, who left a positive effect on all that knew him, especially all the local sportsmen that he coached over the years. He will leave a great void in local rugby circles"

"I was lucky enough to be coached by this true legend"

"If I am one tenth the man he was when its my time then I would be the proudest man on this planet"

"Rugby has lost a true character and will be greatly missed by everyone whose lives he touched"

"Mike mate, I bet you're organizing a youth team in the sky."

"Thanks to all who enjoyed a naked 440 in honor of Mike at The Ferry club at midnight on Saturday night!! There was only one thing missing.., that angry voice screaming, ''Don't cut those f*king corners!!'' What a great bloke!!"

I know Mike would have appreciated that last one.

I will get up super early on Saturday morning for a long solo run and dedicate it to my old friend who is being laid to rest 5000 miles away. That's the good thing about pre-dawn solo runs - there's plenty of time to reflect. Go easy big man - just don't make those angels run too many of your legendary 440s!!!

Kath, Sarah and Ryan - we're thinking of you.


Anonymous said...

Very sorry to hear about your loss. We only have a few people in our lives that really make a huge impact on us. A long solo run sounds like the appropriate way to honor him.

Jeff F.

Anonymous said...

Neath Athletic Colts 87/88

He took us to the cup final on the Arms Park. I worshipped the man, still do. To many memories to repeat, 4 x 40’s and showers, God bless you Barney, hugs and kisses Dai