Connell knew his pies, and players - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Connell knew his pies, and players

By Wayne Heming 12/06/2009 07:54:59 PM Comments (0)

Cyril Connell knew a great meat pie almost as well as he knew a great footballer.

Former Brisbane Broncos coach Wayne Bennett on Friday honoured a promise to his close friend to deliver the eulogy at his funeral service at St Catherine's church in Brisbane.

It was more a tribute to a unique man Bennett loved and admired for his humility, patience and remarkable kindness.

Connell helped many young footballers get their starts.

But what touched Bennett more was that he cared so much for those who didn't make it on the field.

Connell didn't like to fly so he drove all over Queensland searching for special young talent.

But, as Bennett revealed, the former school teacher who played for Queensland and Australia in the 1950s, would often bring a "charity" cases to the club because "he was a nice boy" or he had "lovely parents".

More than 500 mourners - the biggest to attend a funeral service at St Catherine's at Moggill - packed the church and surrounding grounds as Bennett journeyed through Connell's remarkable life as a school teacher, footballer and a talent scout for 18 years at the Broncos.

He recalled how Connell's terrible driving had everyone at the club terrified to get into his car, even Bennett.

He joked no matter where Connell drove to look at a player, whether it was Toowoomba or Emerald or wherever, he always had to come back via Rockhampton, the Queensland city where he was born.

Connell knew where the best pies were throughout the state and the best young footballers.

When Broncos founder, the late Paul Morgan, approach Bennett about giving Connell, who was unhappy working as a stockbroker in his firm, a job as a recruiting scout, Bennett's first response was: "does he know his players".

"Porky was rather offended by that and I soon discovered why," smiled Bennett.

Australian captain Darren Lockyer and dual international Wendell Sailor two of Connell's "finds" were among the mourners.

"Cyril gave me the opportunity to be here," said Lockyer, hours before leading Brisbane against the Bulldogs following a dramatic week for the club.

"Without Cyril Connell I wouldn't be where I am today."

Connell encouraged Sailor to be himself when others felt he was too brash and cocky when he first arrived at the Broncos.

"If anything Cyril encouraged me to be my own sort of person," said the flamboyant winger.

"When I arrived, he told me to train really hard and Wayne (Bennett) would offer me a contract.

"I think Wayne thought I was a little too lairy and a bit lazy on the field and Cyril had to talk him into signing me.

"Wayne admitted to me this week that without Cyril he might not have signed me."

Connell, who died on Tuesday aged 81 after a long illness, is survived by his wife Carmel and sons Patrick and Steve.

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