The Rugby community is mourning the loss of Shane Nightingale, who passed on Monday after a long battle with cancer.
Shane Norbert Nightingale was a member of the Wallabies 1982 tour to New Zealand, where he represented Australia on five occasions in uncapped tour matches.
He was a vigorous, hard as nails, fair, but no quarters asked nor given lock. Whilst circumstances were such that he was never selected in a Test team, he has been crowned by contemporaries as one of the best players never to have played a Test match in open company.
He did however play three matches with the 1977/78 Australian Schoolboys side, known as “The Invincibles”. This team, managed by Rev. Bro. Wallace and coached by Geoff Mould, formed the nucleus of the Australian rugby team for the next decade. No fewer than 10 Wallabies emerged from that squad including the Ellas, Michael O’Connor, Tony Melrose, Michael Hawker, Chris Roche, Tony D’Arcy, Shane Nightingale and Dominic Vaughan. Several very good footballers missed out on that tour, including future World Cup winner Steve Cutler, who played the same position as Nightingale.
Born in Murwillumbah, NSW on August 1, 1959; Shane was educated at St. Gregory’s College, Campbelltown & St. Columban’s Christian Brothers College, Albion QLD.
A product of Brisbane’s Brothers Rugby Club, Shane featured in 100 First Grade games from 1979 to 1986. He won five Premier Grade titles in the butcher’s stripes (1980-1984). In 1982, he received the J.P. Gralton Memorial Trophy, awarded to the player who shows the most resilience at the club.
He debuted for Queensland in 1980. That year he toured with the Reds to England and France. He played against Melrose (15-15), Oxford (22-3), Bristol (9-9), Cote Basque (31-20) and Bordeaux (25-7). In total he represented Queensland 33 times, retiring in 1988.
Shane’s moment in the sun was when he was picked for the 1982 Australian tour of New Zealand. At the time he was 22 years of age, was 1.91 m in Height and 103 k in weight. He played against Taranaki (16-15), Buller (65-10) Waikato (23-3) Bay of Plenty (16-40) and Counties ((9-15) three times as a lock and two times as number 8. His power, rucking and mauling ability were tailor-made for the modern game. Injuries sustained in the tour to New Zealand just prior to the third Test at Auckland on the 11th September 1982 ruled him out of selection when it was anticipated his form in the lead-up games would have made him an almost certain selection.
He also represented Queensland Country, spending two seasons playing for the Burdekin Rugby Union Club in the Townsville competition in 1987 and 1988.
Shane was imbued with the amateur spirit of playing for enjoyment and not for money; he placed great value on friendships made and maintained on his two tours, interstate games and his Club. He related how these friendships were created when he had to take leave without pay and had spending money, all up, of twenty dollars a day. Among many successes he rated very highly how he captained a Queensland Country side which beat a Brisbane representative side.
He greatly admired the man management and coaching skills of Bob Templeton who he considered had just the right balance in his approach between winning and having fun. He had a special place for those who would play in a representative game on a Saturday and play their heart out for their club on the following Sunday. Shane Nightingale always did that.
An honourable and determined toiler, he was admired by those he played with. He never gave in.
Get the latest from Classic Wallabies
Follow the Classic Wallabies to see our latest events, including rugby coaching clinics and matches.