The word ‘mate’ has many different meanings, but in our global network of footy it refers to our unique brotherhood. The following note was sent from former player/coach Barry Randall from the Victoria Police Rugby League Club. Barry was here to play with the Hibos/Sharks back in 2000 and he has stayed in touch with many of the fellas over the years which is a testament to how thick our bonds are. This note was originally sent when he first heard the news, but it rings just as true today as it did 11 years ago. Barry recently came back with his family to visit some of the fellas here in the states and we picked up right where we left off. It embodies everything that is great in our sport; the camaraderie that cannot be formed any other normal circumstances. Of all the ‘laws’ that the various forms of our sport take on, the most important is the one we cannot bend: brotherhood.
“Some of the Hibos/Sharks know me, some don’t. I played with the boys in 2000 under Joe Kelly and then played with many of the same guys in the Sharks rugby league team that I coached, including Jesse.
When I decided to leave Australia in early 2000 for a year of living and playing footy in the USA, it was a huge leap of faith for me. I’d met Dave Niu and a few of the boys months earlier when I toured to the USA with the Australian Police Rugby league Team. I got talking to Niuy about coming back in 2000 to have a run with the Sharks. I came over a bit earlier and started playing for the Hibo’s as a warm up for me. I can remember turning up to my very first Hibo’s training with Niuy introducing me to the boys. Jesse was one of the first blokes to come up to me and shake my hand and welcome me on board. From that very first g’day, we became good mates. Jesse was often my taxi throughout the year, both for footy and social outings (drinks in town!). When we played down at Sea Isle City for the War at the Shore, it was Jesse that came and picked me up and drove me all the way in his jeep, music blasting as me, Sammy and Jesse talked the talk. I found out pretty quickly that Jesse just didn’t talk the talk, he followed it up with an awesome rugby ethic and work rate. Given he wasn’t a real big bloke, he had a huge heart when it came to the game and that goes a long way towards being a good footy player. I can still remember hearing the band ’3 doors down’ for the very first time, coming out of Jesse’s car on that trip to the shore.
He was funny, friendly and at times very intense and through it all, he made me feel welcome which was a huge thing for a guy that turned up in another country to play rugby with a bunch of blokes I hadn’t met. Jesse often asked me about Australia and was very keen to come and visit me in Melbourne. Before his death we had been talking about him and his family coming down under to stay with me so it was with great shock and sadness that I read Sal’s email telling me what had happened. I sat there stunned, staring at my computer as if it wasn’t real as I started to cry. I’m sure I did not know him half as well as many of the Hibo/Shark family did, but I know that I was proud to have known him and been treated so well by him. It was a true honour to have called him a mate. God bless you Jesse.” – Baz