When Paterson River beat Hinton in a D-Grade footy game recently it was a victory that meant much more than an NRL premiership and a State of Origin win rolled into one.
It was a win for Jenko, and one that saw players and spectators alike, weep for a legend.
Paul Jenkins was the backbone of the Paterson River club and a bloke who has now been immortalised with a trophy in his honour.
Jenko, as he is affectionately known, lost his life on December 11 last year when the 46-year-old was killed in a car accident at Mindaribba on his way to work.
He learned the week before his death he was going to be a grandfather. “I can’t wait to be a grandpappy,” he told his son Daniel.
Baby Koa was born on August 13. She will never know her grandfather or feel his touch, but the mark he has left on a community and his family is enough for her to know he was a true legend.
Paul was Paterson River Football Club president, the same club Daniel also represents. The club had a memorial trophy made, hand carved from Paterson cedar. It was to be presented to the winner of a clash between Paterson River and Hinton on August 11 – exactly eight months after Paul’s death. Paterson won and Daniel accepted the trophy.
“The whole football ground was in tears,” said Paul’s mum Beryl Griffin. “It was incredible they won and could take it back to Paterson,” she said. “Paul was the absolute stalwart of the club.”
Last week Paterson won the NHRL D-grade Northern Conference premiership beating Gloucester. Club president and player Mathew Coleman said they won it for Jenko.
“He did so much for the club. He put in countless hours and did day-to-day administration – the stuff needed to make it work. He was the first one there and the last to leave,” he said. “He was a highly regarded in the Paterson community. Everyone knew him. He always had a smile, a top bloke who would help anyone.
“We wanted to win the grand final for Jenko. When we’re in a huddle before a game we count to three and yell ‘river’ but that day we yelled ‘Jenko.’ We were playing for him. This club will make sure his legacy lives on.”
Paul’s death still has his family looking for answers. Mrs Griffin said it’s a mystery how the accident occurred.
“There was nothing physically wrong with him, there were no drugs, alcohol or speeding involved. The car was mechanically sound,” she said.
Despite this there’s no doubt Paul was a much loved family man and member of the Vacy and Maitland communities. More than 1000 people attended his funeral at Paterson Sportsground, four days before Christmas.