Shaggy-haired old-timer gives everything to game
THOUGHT I might wander out to ANZZZZZ Stadium tonight for the Parra v Dogs game. Who knows? Maybe 70,000 screaming westies can breathe some life into the old Homebush morgue.
The majority of the crowd will be watching Jarryd Hayne, the kid in the red boots who plays every game as if it’s backyard footy and his mum’s about to call him inside for the night.
Me? I’m there to see Hindy, the shaggy-haired old-timer whose work-rate literally leaves his arse hanging out of his shorts at the end of the 80 minutes. Whose sway back and puddin’ guts gives him the look of a brickie in an age when footballers spend more time in Sydney Confidential than the sports pages.
In his 12th season in the top grade, Nathan Hindmarsh’s CV features everything but a premiership. He came close under former Brian Smith, but Andrew Johns and Ben Kennedy turned on two of the greatest performances in grand final history to demolish the Eels in 2001.
In the lean years since, as coaches and halfbacks came and went, Hindy has been turning up to Parramatta Stadium, politely turning down offers from other clubs because the Eels gave him and his older brother Ian their first contract and he never forgot it.
“I’m not really a stats person,” Hindy told The Daily Telegraph’s Dean Ritchie this week. “You have a look every now and then to make sure you are carrying enough metres. But I just get out there and do my job.”
You know those people who beat it out of the office at 5.01pm, wearing sensible shoes with their business clothes for the pleasant afternoon walk home? Hindy’s the one who stays behind, driven by the awful feeling that somehow, somewhere he might be letting somebody down.
Even if the second-rower doesn’t rate statistics, the numbers are impressive. The ones that matter: 258 games with an average run of 106m per game and 8790 tackles for an average of 34 per game. What the stats don’t tell you is the context in which those tackles are made. Hindy sees himself as something like the Wolf in Pulp Fiction. When trouble comes to the Eels, Hindy arrives to clean up the mess, a thankless job that doesn’t end in weekly appearances on the Footy Show and million-dollar contracts.
If, say, Luke Patten makes a 60m break tonight and Hayne brings him down, have a look to see who makes the second or third tackle after that. It will most likely be Hindy, who will have come from the opposite end of the field to shut down the play and buy six or seven seconds for his forwards to drag themselves back into position. He has done it for years and the play moves so quickly that commentators rarely have time to acknowledge him. When there’s a break in play, the replay will show Patten in full-flight and Hayne making the tackle. The bloke slightly off-camera with the builder’s crack won’t rate a mention.
Every league fan has an inspiring Hindy moment. Mine was last season, when he continued to play and train through caring for his father Bill, who was dying from cancer in Robertson, the family’s home town in the NSW Southern Highlands. Hindy was trying to make the trip from Sydney to say goodbye but got the phone call on the highway. He was too late. Hindy was asked whether he would still play two days later. He said his dad had ordered him not to miss the game.
“I’m going to play,” he told a newspaper. “Dad’s gone. There’s nothing I can do now. He’d been ill for a while with cancer and it really took off in the last month or so. I’d been bracing myself for it for a while.
“I’m in a tipping competition and dad usually did my tips. He was going pretty well, too. He was five for five on the weekend. We didn’t get any of the last three, but five turned out to be a pretty good score in that round.
“It would be good if you could put the funeral details in. It will be at St John’s Church at Robertson, at 2pm on April 1.”
That is the sort of man you have in your back row, Eels fans. Regardless of how you feel when the siren sounds about 9.30pm, may you always resist the temptation to take Hindy for granted.
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