By RUSSELL BENNETT
THE Berwick Miners lost their ‘Rivalry Bowl’ gridiron clash to arch rivals the Croydon Rangers on Saturday, but the result did little to dampen the spirit of the club legends who turned out to Rawling Field to mark the team’s 25th birthday.
The Rawling story has become synonymous with Miners culture and its final chapter was etched into the club’s history books on the weekend.
Danny Rawling arrived at the Miners as a skinny 16-year-old and played defensive back for eight years before joining the army and serving with the 1st Incident Response Regiment in Afghanistan.
But on 24 May 2009, after he had returned to Australia, he was killed in a motorbike accident.
The Miners’ home ground at Sydney Pargeter Reserve in Endeavour Hills was officially opened in his honour on Saturday.
Danny’s parents still attend all major club functions, and his mum cut the ribbon to open the ground.
They, like the giants who take to the field, would do anything for the club.
The Miners are battling on field – at the bottom of the Division One ladder and yet to record a win in this Gridiron Victoria season.
But coach Mel Martin said Saturday’s occasion – and the build up to it – galvanised his group.
“As a coach I preach brotherhood, togetherness and one in, all in,” Martin said.
“And that’s what comes to mind when you mention the Berwick Miners -brotherhood.
“Take Jamie Stafford, for example. He plays for the Rangers now but grew up a Miner and still holds a place in his heart for the club.
“He stayed around after the game to talk with the boys on Saturday.”
Miners’ offensive lineman Esira Ramasima works as a security guard. He normally can’t get to training on Thursday nights but he found a way to get there last week and he ended up winning the Miners’ game MVP against the Rangers – the first club the Miners faced 25 years ago.
Ramasima’s effort of going that extra mile continued a legacy set by the likes of Rawling, David Wing, Troy Davis, Mark Petana, Trevor Kempster, Peter Walker and Stuart Pontil. They all bleed Miner orange and black.
Wing is the father of college football cult hero, and now Philadelphia Eagles’ punter Brad. That prodigious leg strength runs in the family, with David named both the punter and tight end of the Miners’ ‘Team of the Double Decade’.
Davis, that team’s quarterback and now an actor, broke Martin’s heart with a winning touchdown pass in the final second of the 1994 Vic Bowl game when the Miners’ father-figure was then coaching against the side.
When veteran outside linebacker Petana talks, everyone listens. Now in his late 30s, he is in his 18th season with the side – having been through the good times and bad.
Kempster, another former player, moved to Queensland two years ago but he still comes back to all the club’s training camps. British by birth, he even painted his ride-on mower the Miners’ orange and black.
Walker simply fell in love with the club. His playing career was cut short by knee injuries but he now films the club’s home games on a cherry picker that his company hires to the Miners free of charge.
Pontil, a police officer, started playing with the Miners in 1996. With various postings in the country, he’s been and gone a number of times over the years. But with his son now playing, he couldn’t miss the opportunity of playing alongside him this season.
Though the Miners lost their Rivalry Bowl contest 16-6 on Saturday, Martin said the side’s defense – where Danny Rawling played all those years ago – was “outstanding”.
This week they’ll face reigning Vic Bowl champions, the Monash Warriors. But Martin and his coaching staff won’t back down from the challenge.
“They might be last year’s champions but that means absolutely nothing to us,” he said.
“Our guys just have to believe in themselves. They’ve got 90 per cent of the job done (in the first three games of the season), they just have to finish it off.”
The Miners will face the Warriors this Sunday from 1.30pm at Maryvale Reserve in Morwell.