League mourns Cyril Connell
THE word icon is often over-used in sport but in the case of Cyril Connell Jnr it does not go far enough to describe his status in the rugby league community.
Consequently the news from Brisbane that Cyril had passed away yesterday came as a shock to lovers of the sport.
The name Connell is synonymous with the sport in Central Queensland with his father, also named Cyril, a legend of rugby league too.
When the Morning Bulletin set about asking experts to name a “Team of the Century” for CQ rugby league last year there was invariably one name that was on all lists - Cyril Connell junior.
Born in Rockhampton in 1928, Connell played at five-eighth for club, state and country.
He was one of a string of fine footballers who came through the Rockhampton Brothers club, playing about three years with Brothers before moving on to play club football in Toowoomba.
During his distinguished career, Connell went on to play 24 times for Queensland, two Tests against New Zealand and also represented Australia in tour matches.
Once his playing career was over, Connell never lost contact with the sport he loved and in 1990 was appointed recruitment officer with the Brisbane Broncos.
His success in that position can be clearly gauged by the number of top-quality footballers who owe their start in Broncos colours to Connell.
The club's management has been quick to pay tribute to Connell who was seen as the senior statesman of the Broncos family.
“He was a tremendously loyal man and personally a great support for me,” said current Broncos' head coach, Ivan Henjak.
“He probably had the biggest impact of anyone on moulding the club and its culture.
“All the qualities he had - humbleness, loyalty, passion for the Broncos and caring for people - rubbed off on the club.”
Former coach Wayne Bennett, who worked along side Connell in building the Broncos into the club it is today, also passed on his tribute and acknowledged the role played by the former school teacher.
“He was a truly remarkable man who touched so many lives,” said Bennett.
“He gave so many young guys opportunities they would never have got - not only in football, but in his career as a teacher as well.
“He was an absolutely outstanding man in everything he did. He carried great humility wherever he went and with whoever he touched.”
The funeral for Cyril O'Connell will be held on Friday, at St Catherine's Church, Moggill, at 1.30pm.
The Broncos will also honour the club legend when they play their NRL match against the Bulldogs at Suncorp Stadium on Friday night.
Cyril Connell is survived by his wife, Carmel, and sons Patrick and Steve.
People wishing to send their own tribute should email The Morning Bulletin on firstname.lastname@example.org.