The New South Wales Rugby League has lost another bush footy icon with the passing of John "Bronco" Jones, who passed away on the weekend at the age of 84.
Born with rugby league in his veins, his father Jack had been a member of the mighty Gundagai team of the 1920s, Jones started out with his hometown club at senior level as a teenager in 1953 and went on to carve an outstanding career.
Locals quickly realised they had something special on their hands, and the Gundagai locals who had tasted the big time knew he was capable of taking a step up. Internationals Peter Diversi and Nevyl Hand, who had both played with North Sydney, recommended him to their old club and in 1958 Bronco Jones journeyed up the Hume Highway to become a Bear.
Two years in Sydney under the guidance of the great Trevor Allen and playing alongside the like of Brian Carlson and Ken Irvine put the finishing polish on his game, but city life was never for him.
When he returned to the Riverina he was a star. He played with Tumut in 1960 and represented both Country Firsts against City and then NSW against Queensland in two matches.
In 1961 he kicked five goals in Country's 19-5 victory over the City Slickers and then kicked a remarkable goal in the final minutes of the first interstate clash off 1961. With NSW trailing by a point his penalty goal struck the upright and then the crossbar before falling over to give The Blues an amazing 21-20 victory.
Jones' ability as a kicker was part of the legend - he could kick goals from halfway, which was no mean feat in the days of leather balls and toe poking goalkickers. But he was also a wonderful all-round player and ideal team man as well as a legend in the town as a gifted sportsman who always had an encouraging word for the young blokes who carried on the club's traditions. Rugby league at all levels is built on the quality of people like "Bronco" Jones.
"Bronco" played his last game for his beloved Gundagai in 1964 but he was never far from the club, even in retirement. He served as coach, President, official and in any other way the club needed for several years.
Before he passed away he organised his funeral service and wake, scheduled for the local footy field Anzac Park this Friday- a fitting send-off for one of rugby league's finest.
To his wife Jill, extended family and legion of friends the NSWRL offers sincere condolences.