MAYBE it’s appropriate many of the participants at today’s Men Of League (MOL) raceday at Coffs Harbour have a rugby league background.
Starting with club president Alan Johnson, who played in a couple of Group 2 grand finals with Nambucca Heads Roosters, there will be just as much ‘talent’ in the mounting yard as among the old-timers reminiscing at the luncheon.
Trainer Ken Lantry is coming ‘home’ for the weekend and will saddle up two runners including handy sprinter Tocapitalize.
He loves rugby league as much as racing and recalls a premiership victory with Maitland Pumpkin Pickers as a golden moment.
“Terry Pannowitz was the coach and I was only a young bloke playing off the bench,” he recalled.
“It was a fantastic moment and there were also good times when I went up to Scone.
“Don ‘Bandy’ Adams was coaching the club and talked Panno into letting him borrow me and we had a fair bit of success.”
Lantry also represented Newcastle before the Knights arrived in town in an era when that competition was second only to Sydney – but probably twice as tough.
Jockey Raymond Spokes was once a Bowraville Tiger – the same club as Greg Inglis – and has a cult following among Macksville Sea Eagles.
“Back whatever Spokesy is riding,” is the frequent tip of Eagles legend Neville Donovan, who just happens to be the cousin of trainer Chris Manson, who will send around handy mare Crystal Point in the last race.
In the second event it’s hard to miss the inclusion of the gelding Sawty Panther, part-owned and prepared by Peter Goodenough who was a proud ‘chocolate soldier’ in the 1970s.
Then there’s visiting Port Macquarie identity Ken Faulds who will saddle up classy Pulse Maker.
As a young player, Faulds built a formidable reputation as a bush league captain-coach before switching to the referees’ ranks.
He was a touch judge the day Brett Davis-coached Nambucca downed Orara Valley – coached by local MOL president Peter Barrett – in the extra time 1996 grand final.
As for the Men Of League Cup, have something on Canny Rock, especially if trainer Stuart Phegan brings his father-in-law Gary McQuillan to the races to strap the gelding.
McQuillan made numerous appearances in the front row for North Coast Division before catching the racing bug.