Group 2 veteran Brad Hart is saddling up for his 21st season of footy after signing with Sawtell Panthers.
Group 2 veteran Brad Hart is saddling up for his 21st season of footy after signing with Sawtell Panthers.

Hart returns after lengthy absence

EVERGREEN rugby league star Brad Hart has returned to the club where his glittering playing career began as a junior.

After two decades and hundreds of first-grade games with rival clubs Coffs Harbour, Orara Valley and Bellinger Valley-Dorrigo, the veteran hooker has signed with Sawtell Panthers in a dual capacity.

Hart will coach the club’s under-18 side and declared that he feels so rejuvenated as a player that a run in the top grade is not beyond him if he gets the call into action.

“Once I had a talk with Sawtell’s president Mark Maynard I had a gut feeling this was the right decision,” Hart said.

“Later we shook hands on the deal and that’s all it took with no need to go into any big signing ceremony or anything.”

Hart began playing juniors with the Panthers when his late father, Larry, was one of the stars in the famous 1978 Clayton Cup-winning team.

Coached by Les Cleal, the side won the most famous Group 2 premiership decider in a heart-stopping extra-time joust with Smithtown Tigers.

Larry Hart was later awarded life membership at the Panthers and often hinted he’d like his footballing sons to one day return to the Sawtell club where it all began.

“Dad was definitely a factor in the decision,” Hart confirmed.

“My youngest brother David said he’d like to come out and give it a try and the idea grew from there.

“Now we have to convince the other brother ‘Bruiser’ (Michael) to join the support staff.

“Anyway, I’ve got the team manager Trevor Durant lined up to go with us and that will make it four clubs that we’ve all been together at.”



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