"Angel on my shoulder"

4 years ago

My name is Michael Nethery I am a former Randwick Rugby club member as were my two sons Matt and Dan and my brother Paul. I know we have all lost a great friend and a legend in Jeffrey Sayle. We have all had our separate and collective experiences with Jeffrey but there are only a few who have had a cross generational friendship with Jeffrey. My father coached Jeffrey, I watched Jeffrey play when I was a school boy. I went on to play my first 1st xv grade game for Randwick with Jeff, later on he was my coach and then some twenty years on he was coach of my two sons. I have attached a little bit of a family tribute to him that I thought you might like to read and although my mum and dad have both passed away over recent years they too were good friends with Jeff as was my brother Paul. He always welcomed us with open arms a cheerful smile and a warm heart.

Jeffrey Leonard Sayle

Jeffrey Leonard Sayle was involved with my family from the time my father Cyril was coaching with the SRU. I first remember watching Jeffrey play for Randwick when I was a schoolboy. He was a friend of my father, my mum and my two sons, my brother Paul and indeed my two daughters. He knew my children from the time they were born. He always welcomed every member of my family with open arms, a cheerful smile and a warm heart.

Jeffrey was an inter-generational person, he was coached by my father and he coached my two sons as well as myself. I think that is something special right there. He loved children, although to the best of my understanding he never had any of his own. But having said that, in a way he did have children, because every new bright young boy who presented himself at Randwick Rugby Club was quick to understand that Jeffrey was there as a father figure if required.

My own experiences with Jeff began when watching him play rugby with some of Randwick’s greatest. I remember sitting on that great grassy bank at the old Sydney Sports Ground and watching Jeffrey, Johnny Brass, Phil Hawthorn, Ginger Weber, Denis Cleary and the incomparable Ken Catchpole. They wore the Myrtle Green and carried the Randwick crest on their chests. No coloured boots back then, the boots were black and they were probably “Featherweights”.

I played my first 1st XV grade game for the Randwick club alongside Jeffrey where he made it his role to make sure I was settled, needless to say I was settled. Later on he was my coach, he was our head coach.

My trips away with him to Fiji and NZ made me laugh so much it still hurts thinking about it.

The smorgasbord at the opening ceremony of the Air New Zealand South Pacific 7s Maori Cultural Centre Rotorua where he took a liking to the meat balls and shifted them around and around.

The trip across the island from Suva to Lautoka with Jeff sitting in the back of the minivan on the Jerseys kit bag, complaining about his bad back with every pot hole in the road.

We were honoured with an invitation to Sunday church service and a Fijian banquet in the village of our Fijian Randwick team mate Quele Ratu. Only a hand full of our team attended. The humility, piety, respect and generosity of the people and their majestic singing touched Jeffrey so much that tears were streaming down his face.

The ceremonial Kava drinking with the village chiefs and elders and then our own Kava ceremony back in the hotel with the rum punch in our own kava bowl. (A stainless steel wok from the kitchen)

Our time out on the coral reef was up. The Fijian guide was doing a head count but we were missing one person. Jeffrey was nowhere to be seen. The next thing from down under the glass bottom coral viewing boat a great white rump appeared up against the glass. I will never forget the astonished look on the faces of the two tourist ladies looking at the coral. The Fijian guide nearly fell out of the boat laughing. When Jeff came to the surface his face was as red as a tomato from holding his breath. No one was offended, it was classic Jeffrey.

Being lapped numerous times by all other competitors in the 3000m steeple chase at the Sydney inter-club athletics but he wouldn’t stop. (The judges in their Tangerine Blazers and little schoolboy caps; they wanted to get the relays started which were the last event of the day, but Jeff, who was hardly the build of your typical distance runner kept going, taking forever to negotiate the water jump on each lap. He was soaking wet with water and dripping in perspiration and so they waved him in, but he wouldn’t come in and when they came out onto the track to get him to stop he just kept lumbering around them and to the cheers and the urging of the small crowd and other competitors he just kept on going. He had to finish.)

The Ashworth incident when we volunteered for scrum practice against New Zealand at the SCG. Ashworth split Jeff’s eye with a cheap shot and we told them all, Haden, Cowboy Shaw etc to piss off and find someone else to scrum against but Jeff told us to come back, it was all OK.

That was the type of person he was.

I could go on. But they are only my own reflections that typify the person Jeffrey was and everyone has their own experiences with Jeffrey.

Above all Jeffrey was very kind, he had a soft heart, he was a peacemaker and blessed are the peacemakers. Nothing made Jeffrey happier than harmony among his friends, fellow rugby people and harmony within the Club.

And now he's gone. But he's left behind something that no coach or selector or opponent or journalist or critic could ever take away from him; the infectious and insatiable appetite for life and laughter, for friends and for the immortal spirit of the “Galloping Greens”.

There will never be another Jeffrey Leonard Sayle, it just wouldn’t be permitted. In our world today he would not be allowed to develop in the way he did, someone would stop him doing the things that made him who he was, the things that made him into the person we all loved so much. So we will never see his like again.

Some people join religious orders and dedicate themselves to their chosen cause. Jeffrey Leonard joined Randwick Rugby as a 10 year old ball boy and dedicated his life to the Myrtle green and never left.

We are grateful for him. He was a gift. A beautiful gift to us all.

And yes indeed, well done Jeffrey Leonard, thou good and faithful servant; you can rest easy from your labours now. You can relax and enjoy your front row seat at many more matches of “the game they play in heaven”.

Fondest regards

Michael J Nethery

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