Cessnock Goannas and Newcastle Rugby League life member Gary Jack has died aged 72.
Jack, whose 56 years service to the club was recognised with the naming of the training field at Cessnock Sportsground in his honour, died in the early hours of Boxing Day after a long illness.
Although he never pulled on the famous black and gold jersey he was the heart and soul of the Goannas after first coming to help out as a 16-year-old in 1966.
"Dad was injured when he was hit by a car when he was young so he never played the game. He got involved as a helper and it just went from there," Jack's son Craig recalled surrounded by his father's old mates at the Cessnock Sportsground on Monday.
"He didn't leave, the only move was from the old ground to the new sportsground.
"He was team manager, groundsman, president, trainer, working the canteen he did every role he could."
Jack was responsible for the upkeep of the old sportsground, watering the playing surface and cleaning up after games.
"One time when the council was unable to mow the lawn at the ground, Dad stepped in and did the job with an old push mower," Craig recalled.
Jack's mates from the Monday crew Merv McLennan, Athol Peden, Fred Condran and Glenn Goodwin remembered him as a straight shooter who was always there when you needed someone.
"He let you know what his thoughts were, he never went behind your back. You knew where he was coming from," McLennan said.
"If you needed anything he was the man to see," Peden recalled. "He did so much for the club.
"There are plenty of funny memories, but I don't know if we could get away with printing them as I don't want to get locked up."
Social media was flooded with tributes for the Goannas favourite, most describing him as a gentleman and many as a legend.
"RIP Gary, was one of the Best," former Goannas player Brendan Hlad wrote
"Gary always loved a chat about footy whether it be the Roosters or the Goeys and always had a dash of humor in those times. It Is a very sad day but with Gary battling health conditions in later years he has no more suffering and I am sure he will be up there looking down supporting his teams," Gary Bailey posted.
"A Goanna through and through, Gazza lived just a few houses away from another dedicated Goanna clubman Ray "Rip" McCord. We followed the Goannas when they were just known as the Nocks --from the 50`s as kids on the old scoreboard to the present. RIP Gazza --you will be missed by all, you champion," Bill Askie said.
Jack is survived by his wife Denise, children Craig and Tracy and six grandchildren.
His funeral service will be held on Friday, January 7, at 11am at the Cessnock Sportsground.
In honour of Gary's two favourite clubs, mourners are asked to wear Cessnock Goannas or Sydney Roosters attire.
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