Legend receives Group 2 honour
By GREG WHITE
WHEN John 'Tank' Mackay lost his long battle with cancer last July it wasn't just his home club Sawtell who were rocked by the news.
Mackay became an instant legend when the Panthers won the 1978 Group 2 premiership with their unbeaten season earning the award of the historic Clayton Cup and his funeral brought back to the city, Les and Noel Cleal, the colourful figureheads of that unforgettable year.
But it was Mackay's short spell as a member of Group 2 Management during the turbulent times of 2005-06 that left such an indelible impression on the game.
"The contribution 'Tank' made was far greater than what the public became aware of," Group 2 Chairman Greg Mayhew said.
"With the controversy of those years we needed somebody to offer stability and good advice and he was rock solid."
Group treasurer Jim Anderson often gave Mackay the lion's share of credit for finding a pathway through the tension of the so-called "Gimbisi affair."
"If ever there was a bloke you wanted behind you and beside you, it was John Mackay," he said.
"He went out of his way to make sure everybody involved was treated fairly and many of his suggestions as to how we should proceed formed the basis of the actions that were taken."
So, Group 2 has honoured Mackay by naming the best and fairest award from this Sunday's first grade grand final between Macksville and Orara Valley, the John Mackay Medal.
"We've done it as a mark of respect for 'Tank' and to signal how much affection we had for him," secretary Peter O'Grady announced.
"At this stage it will be a one-off and we'll gauge the response from making the award, and then discuss the possibility of making it an annual thing."
The winner of the John Mackay Medal will be selected by Coffs Coast Advocate rugby league writer Greg White.
"When Peter O'Grady mentioned this as a way to mark 'Tank's' passing I thought it was a wonderful idea," White said.
"But when he then asked me to judge it, I was speechless at being given such an honour.
"With the certainty there'll be a lot of emotion with the presence of the Sea Eagles and Axemen, awarding the medal to the outstanding player will add to the poignancy of the occasion."