Barry gets life
By GREG WHITE
WHEN news filtered around Barry Nicholls had been awarded life membership of Group 2 rugby league, the cheers could almost be heard across 150 miles of coastline.
While Nicholls is generally recognised as the amiable trainer of Orara Valley and the rep teams, he has a prescence stretching far beyond club lines.
In the words of evergreen Comets forward Brenden Pellagrino: "Barry is the unofficial medico for every player in the Group."
From Port Macquarie to Woolgoolga, wherever rugby league is played, Nicholls is notorious for his willingness to assist not only his own players, but their fallen opponents.
"It's hard to make distinctions between them," Nicholls said.
"If a player needs assistance you don't turn your back on him."
Nicholls changed sports medicine forever when he arrived in Coffs Harbour.
Pre-1989, trainers did little more than give rubdowns, wrap bandages and apply the 'magic sponge'.
Nicholls arrived from Balmain Tigers with years of experience, a swag of qualifications and a willingness to freely share his knowledge.
Once accepted, his influence spread quickly.
"Barry is one of a kind," Group 2 secretary Peter O'Grady said when discussing the award.
"There's no jealousy, and not a bit of malice in him, so he gets everybody's trust."
His love for Balmain is legendary and often discussed in this journal.
But there are other sides to Barry Nicholls, away from football.
He neither drinks nor smokes but is far from a wowser.
Rarely does a greyhound, trotter or galloper with 'tiger'in it's name go around, without fifty cents each way of Nicholls' money weighing it down.
As a practical joker, he can't help himself.
So convincing is the telling of his tall tales, there are players who will live out there lives, never knowing they've had their leg's pulled.
He's frustrated a conga line of coaches trying to get an air of seriousness into a dressing room, only to have Nicholls leave a player in a fit of giggles with some droll witicism.
"I'm going to finally retire from club football," Nicholls said to some disbelief.
Just like his many retirements from State Rail that continue to amuse his long list of friends.
Every time he gets the gold watch and chain from the railways, another contract seems to appear like magic.
"Working with the junior league and overseeing the sports training courses is all I'll do from now on," he said.
That's his story.
No one will take bets that at some future time, Nicholls won't suddenly re-appear in a club dressing room.
And, the colours of the club won't matter.