Cancer takes Wallaby at 60

 

SHANE Nightingale was always quietly proud that in Australia's greatest schoolboys side he was preferred as goalkicker over Michael O'Connor and Tony Melrose.

Nightingale's death, at 60, on Monday night from pancreatic cancer jolted his career highlights into full colour once more after he was taken too young.

He toured as a Wallaby to New Zealand in 1982 and played 33 times for Queensland as a no-nonsense forward.

Never was he more at home than in the middle of Tony Shaw's champion Brothers packs that set up a glory run of five straight premierships (1980-84).

Lock Shane Nightingale on the charge for Brothers in a 1980 club game against Souths with bearded Mapgies prop Phil White in pursuit.
Lock Shane Nightingale on the charge for Brothers in a 1980 club game against Souths with bearded Mapgies prop Phil White in pursuit.

"He was one of the toughest and most uncompromising players I've played with," Shaw wrote in a tribute on the Brothers Rugby Club Facebook page.

Nightingale was part of each one at lock and shared four with brother Mark, a skilful No.8.

His lift-off as a schoolboy in the 1970s gave a hint at what was to come because he was a dominant figure in the first St Columban's College team to win a First XV premiership in 1977.

Making the 1977-78 Australian Schoolboys touring squad from an unfashionable TAS school at Albion was an even bigger feat.

He muscled his way into a legendary squad that included the three Ella brothers, Michael Hawker, Chris Roche, O'Connor, Melrose and future league great Wally Lewis.

Nightingale became an old-school rip-and-tear type.

When Queensland coach Bob Templeton wanted to stir a bit more mongrel in his packs in the early 1980s, it was unsurprising he dialled Nightingale's phone number.

Brothers Mark (left) and Shane Nightingale...shared in a golden premiership run with Brothers between 1980-84 in Brisbane club rugby.
Brothers Mark (left) and Shane Nightingale...shared in a golden premiership run with Brothers between 1980-84 in Brisbane club rugby.

"Shane was tough and skilful and he terrorised many a No.10 by taking the ball around the back of the lineout and running straight at him," former Brothers clubmate Rod McCall said.

Former Wests back Kent Bray agreed in his tribute on Facebook.

"I stayed right away from him on the field, very tough man. Got to know him at Queensland training, what a lovely bloke. RIP," Bray wrote.

Nightingale had a big engine but he would still strike up a cigarette at half-time in the dressing room at club games before running out again for the second half.

He was a popular team man who answered to the nickname "Norbert", his middle name.

Brother Mark said the Brothers' mentality suited Shane perfectly.

"It was a forwards' game at Brothers in those days, everyone wanted a touch and we didn't really want to give the ball to the backs," Mark Nightingale said with a laugh.

"Shane was a very good ball-carrier and really loved being part of the Brothers family that connected firsts to fifths."

Brothers lock Shane Nightingale strains on the old scrum machine at Ballymore at Queensland training in 1982.
Brothers lock Shane Nightingale strains on the old scrum machine at Ballymore at Queensland training in 1982.

It was a hard school as Nightingale showed on one club trip to Moreton Island.

"Shawry whacked Shane on the head with a shovel but rather than being flat it had two ridges and left him with two splits on the top," brother Mark said.

"Shane just wrapped his head in a towel, continued with the trip and got around to getting attention two days later when he came home."

Nightingale worked as a "soil doctor" testing soil quality and profiles in his varied working life.

Nightingale is survived by children Tom and Sarah.

A service will be held on Friday from 10.30am at the Our Lady Help of Christians Church, Hendra.



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