Maitland Pickers Old Boys gather to farewell old stands and pay tribute to Gordon 'Sparra' Farrow

TRADITION Pickers Old Boys committee members David Mexon and Pat Warby with  club legends Terry Pannowitz and Alan McNab. Picture: MARINA NEIL
TRADITION Pickers Old Boys committee members David Mexon and Pat Warby with club legends Terry Pannowitz and Alan McNab. Picture: MARINA NEIL

The Maitland Pickers Old Boys will gather on Saturday for one last toast to Gordon “Sparra” Farrow under the shadows of the old central stand. 

Saturday’s home game against Lakes United will end a 15-year tradition of gathering at the the front of the stand where the Old Boys placed a plaque remembering Maitland’s most faithful supporter.

The plaque honouring Sparra will be removed before the old stands are demolished to allow the refurbishment of the Maitland Sportsground.

The work is set to begin in May and the Pickers are scheduled to return to the arena in 2018.

Warby said the tradition of honouring Sparra began 15 years ago when a few old players heard of his passing.

”Sparra was one of God’s special people. We were at the footy and didn’t realise he had passed away until we heard at the ground,” Warby said.

“We were standing in front of the canteen and three or four us decided we should do something about it.

“So the next home game we actually advertised it and had a bit of get together and reunion. We raised some money out of that we put a plaque on the race in the central stand. 

“It couldn’t have been anywhere else. He was famous for standing there and sledging the referees, the players, all players but mainly opposition.

“Actually they ended up putting a wire cage around it to protect the players from him. That’s how lethal he was.

“It was there for years and probably only came down in the last 15 years or so.”

Warby said the first “Sparra Day” had been such a success it had become an Old Boys tradition on the first home game of the season.

“It’s been going for 15 years. We also lost a past president and former old boy John Newcombe. the last Old Boys day of the year is in honour of him, so we will combine both.”

Warby said the tradition of running down the race in the centre of the grandstand would go but hopefully the memories would not be lost.

“We’re hoping to get the general public and the Old Boys out in numbers for Saturday. It’s our last opportunity to gather in front of the old stand and hold our barbecue and hold our stalls.

“We’ll take the plaques down. We’ll keep those for posterity and hopefully find a place for them in the new grandstand. 

“I don’t think the people have really grasped what’s going to happen, just what will be lost.

“Of course it will be the first game since Mervy Wright passed away. Mervy was a proud member of the Old Boys and bought a shirt nearly every year.

“We’re actually doing a shirt in his honour with a photo of Merv on one side and the logo on the other.”

Warby said the Old Boys sponsored various aspects of the club’s operation and league development in Maitland.

“We try to look after the junior development. We give money to young players going away to the Australian side, NSW side and representative sides,” he said.

“We sponsor some rugby league awards at the schools and when Old Boys pass away we help in any way we can with the funeral.”

If you have any old memorabilia or photos associated with the Maitland Pickers at the Maitland Sportsground email michael.hartshorn@fairfaxmedia.com.au or post them online at the Mercury’s facebook page.