HE was about the toughest player in what was a tough era of rugby league.
Jake Kennett was the strongman in formidable Wingham packs in a first grade career that started in 1958 and ended with a solitary game in 1972. In between Kennett turned out in 208 matches for the Tigers.
On Saturday night he’ll be inducted into the Group Three Hall of Fame in a function at the Wingham Services Club. Kennett, Rocky Laurie (Wauchope), Joe White (Gloucester) and Lloyd Hudson (Kempsey) will be honoured. Kennett was initially a centre, partnering Jim Gillogly after starting football in the under 18s with Wingham.
“We ran out of front rowers one year, so (coach) Harry Hooson switched me from the centres to prop,’’ Kennett recalled.
This was the time of unlimited football where scrums were fiercely contested. Props were generally no-nonsense types, given the task of controlling the middle of the field. Enforcers, as they were known. Kennett had little trouble adapting.
“I had some good teachers,’’ he smiled.
“Old blokes like Sailor Bridge and Toby Hinton were around then. You had to learn pretty quickly.’’
Representative honours came his way, turning out for Group 18 regularly and North Coast on four occasions, once as captain. North Coast then covered the area from Gloucester to Tweed Heads.
Wingham also enjoyed a measure of success, winning premierships in 1961 and 62. Unfortunately for the Tigers, this was Gloucester’s golden era, with the Magpies beating Wingham in grand finals in 1960, 63, 64 and 66.
“The thing is back then all the teams were pretty even,’’ Kennett maintained.
“Even the sides coming last – if they got on top, they would be hard to beat. But Gloucester… they had some good teams, with players like Joe White, Bandy (Adams)… there were a lot of them. It’ll be good to catch up with Joe this week.’’
He rates Bandy Adams along with five-eighth Warren Turvey, who captain-coached the Tigers, as two of the best players of his era.
“Turvey came from Newcastle – he was a good player, not a big bloke but he was very hard,’’ he said.
“We had some good players – Allan Skinner, Ricky Greenaway, Don Gibson, Jumbo Pereira, Porky Slater was a top centre – his brother was good as well.’’
Camaraderie was a big part of the game back then
“We were all good mates who played football together – there wasn’t much else to do back in those days,’’ he explained.
As far as front row rivals go, he has nothing but praise for Taree United’s Brian Eakin.
“He was a top bloke and a top footballer, although not fiery, just hard,’’ Kennett said.
Kennett captain-coached Wingham in 1969 and after retiring coached extensively in the Wingham junior league and with Wingham Hotel in the then Group Three Saturday League. He was named in the best Group 18/Group Three team in 2005.
“He was renowned for his toughness – Jake had many opposition players looking carefully where they ran,’’ Graham Steel wrote in Blood Sweat and Beers – the history of the Wingham Rugby League Club.
“Jake, however, was a very skillful player in later years passing his knowledge onto younger players.’’