MARTIN BENNETT 1951-2011

MARTIN BENNETT 

1951-2011

 

 

 

by Steve Haddan 

Good afternoon, I am delighted to accept Carol and Peter’s invitation to say a few words in tribute for Marty, who I first met back in 1979. It was at the start of a brief and undistinguished career at the University of Queensland Australian Football club – that’s my career not Marty’s – he was a four-time premiership player, with over 240 games across 11 seasons, the SQAFA reserves competition’s leading goal kicker in 1985 (with 85 goals) and a life member of the proud club known affectionately by many of us here today as the Red Lions. As our playing careers ended and our lives diverged it was Marty who remained a constant at the club – he loved people, he loved photography and he loved footy. He was as welcoming and enthusiastic, and happy and genuinely interested whenever our paths crossed, as he was the first time we met. That was his way.

 

Born the 7th of August 1951 in Northern Rhodesia, Martin Dumont Bennett was the second of three children born to George and Margaret Bennett. Big brother Peter was first in 1950, then Martin and finally Carol, all born within 18 months. George had seen six years active service on the frontline in North Africa, Italy and Germany with the British army during World War 2.  Martin’s Mum and Dad met at an army hospital in Sheffield where George had nearly died from tonsillitis.

 

Rhodesia was then a British protectorate, and George headed there to find work as a Civil Engineer. Martin’s big brother Peter remembers a happy time in Africa, with servants, wide open spaces, so much to do, the lot, and his kid brother as a good little bloke who Pete kept an eye on. The family then returned to the UK to Sheffield and then to Kent, where George had taken a job at a nuclear power plant. From the intense heat of Africa to the cold of northern England – it made for quite a switch but the boys have fond memories of trainspotting, and war games in and around the steel mills flattened during the Battle of Britain.

 

Martin took his primary education at Hunters Bar School in Sheffield and Broadstairs in Kent, and his secondary education at Charles Dickens School in Kent. Martin was an outstanding student, he spent most of his time out standing on the verandah. He loved cricket, soccer, riding his bike and he played Pip in the school production of “Great Expectations”, by which time Peter noticed his baby brother becoming more outgoing and confident. Martin was 15 in 1966 when the Bennett family of five 10 pound Poms headed for Australia seeking a better life and the sort of climate they’d enjoyed in Africa. His Dad got a job with Dellinghams, a large American construction company and settled in Melbourne for two years, where Marty attended Kew High School. It was here he first developed his keen love of Australian Rules and the Collingwood Football Club. In 1968 the family moved to Brisbane and Bosworth Street, Coopers Plains, the family home until Marty’s Mum Margaret finally passed away in 2007. Upon completing his education at Salisbury High, Martin found a job at Pioneer Concrete as a labourer but the concept of getting dirty (except on the football field) never agreed with the always immaculately groomed Marty.

 

Fortuitously then, Marty’s name was pulled out of the hat and, like his big brother, who served in Vietnam, Martin did two years of National Service with the Army from 1971, where his love of footy really stepped up. Peter recalls he “got right into it”, representing the Army team, but he remembers too, a serious thigh injury which saw Marty hospitalised. Upon his discharge from the Army, Martin joined the National Bank in whose employ he would remain for 30 years, often working the country towns as a releaving banker. Teammate and friend Ian Gorrie recalls that Martin might play two games of footy in the twos and ones with the Red Lions on the Saturday then head home to wherever he was stationed with the bank and turn out for the local rugby league club on the Sunday. Only though, if the town didn’t have a rules side which played on the Sunday.

 

He loved sport says Pete, and given that he looked like Burt Reynolds when he was younger, the girls loved him. He had a heart of gold and was a big softie – he had a lot of girlfriends but was a little too independent to take a prisoner on a permanent basis. Martie liked things his own way and enjoyed his own company, but there would be a wonderful twist to the tail in Marty’s final years when he met a son, Gareth Hood now aged 38 and living in Japan with four sons of his own. Gareth’s Mum Rhonda is here with us all the way from Mitchell today. Pete says Marty was very proud to know he had a son and four grandchildren, a relationship poised to develop even further but for Marty’s premature passing.

 

After Martin’s Mum contracted dementia early last decade, Marty left the bank and shared caring duties with his brother and sister. He was subsequently able to fan into blazing life an enduring hobby – photography – and established Dumont Photographics. With his trusty Canon G10, Marty spent the next 20 years doing weddings, parties, anything – swimwear models, ice skaters at competitions – and nurturing a whole army of young fans who were touched by his kind guidance and mentoring. Marty loved teaching young people the finer points of the craft and his kindness and patience and sense of consideration for others were a genuine asset. Many have said as much with Marty’s facebook page filled to the brim with tributes from young people whose lives he had influenced. Most recently he was really enjoying volunteer work at the Maritime Museum. He could also be found at the craps table at the casino from time to time. 

 

The one constant in Marty’s life however was his love of the Uni footy club. He fitted into what was certainly a robust culture despite being a man of temperate habits. In fact he was the only player at the club with temperate habits – EVER.

 

Constantly nursing the after effects of a good time had by all might partly explain the failure of office holders to keep adequate track of who did what and when on the football field, but the positive is that down the years it has essentially allowed players to create their own playing records, which for people like me, is a good thing.

 

Marty is one who didn’t need to because his deeds, on and off the field, during and after his playing career, were there for all to see. He was the heart and soul of the club, a true gentleman. From the friendly welcome to the newcomer, to his ubiquitous call to “put it on my chest Louie”, delivered with that deep pommy baritone of his, he had somehow acquired the nickname Martin Boorman. More social Christian than nazi, this lethal forward pocket or forward flanker goose stepped his way across the playing fields of Brisbane. Stocky and built like a British Bulldog, Marty was the enforcer – hard but fair, and often came to the rescue of his younger teammates. Marty had a build and running style which resembled Leigh Matthews, though on his day he was probably a better player than the Hawthorn champion. “Three Votes” Gorrie has a foggy recollection of the day he was on the receiving end of some roughhouse from Aspley stalwart big Terry Weller at the Uni Oval in 1979.  Risking a life ban after charging off the bench to go in pursuit of Gorrie’s assailant, Marty is said to have chased Weller from one end of St Lucia to the other. It was pretty rough and ready in those days and Marty was a good man to have on your side.

 

Marty was a gentlemen, a friend to all, a man’s man, a kind man. But he wasn’t to be trifled with. Who could forget two-time premiership coach, Jack Van Damme, the Flying Van Damme, a legend at the club and his half time call to arms at Springwood in 1984, when in scenes reminiscent of Barassi’s “handball, handball, handball” or John Kennedy’s “don’t think – do”, Jack had the ressies remove their jumpers and proceded to spit and jump on the jerseys, suggesting that in light of their first half performance this is what the players were doing to the club colours. Just as Jack was about to unsheath the wild thing and add even greater gravitas to his plea, Marty stepped in to suggest that Jack had made his point, there would be no further desecration of the famous maroon and blue and the team would do better second half. It served the purpose with the Red Lions coming from nine goals down to get the points that day before going on to defeat the Pumas in the grand final.

 

Marty’s best footy was played under the astute stewardship of club benefactor Bill Mallon, a former Mayne and Acacia Ridge great turned nightclub entrepreneur, who came to St Lucia with high hopes and an open cheque book, who underwrote the club’s last great golden era in the eighties with reserve grade premierships in 1983, 1984, 1985 and 1987. They were heady days with grand post match celebrations at “Sybils” or gambling nights at the captain/coach’s mansion at Ascot. “Three Votes” remembers after one particular premiership he and Marty ordering everything on the menu at Sibyls and Billy didn’t bat an eye lid.

 

Marty’s best football was played alongside names like infamous Mallon recruits Louie Monetti and Les Maddison,, Ian Bridge, Three Votes Gorrie, the great Kev Dacey, Tex Morton, Clay Golledge, Mickie Byrom, Hall of Famer Foggie Foy, the better Dunstall brother – Harry, fellow lifer the great late “Crystal” Gale, and a bloke called Devo, another called Kieron, Chucker, Hammer, Sullie, Gazzum, Vegie, Cracker and so on and so forth. To any true lover of the great Australian game, just the mention of these names stirs the soul. And then there’s the flying Lambrides brothers Chris, Gary, and Steve who speaks fondly of a mate whose contribution went far beyond the footy.  Steve writes:

 

“…our attendance at games became less regular. However, Marty was always the constant whenever we did manage to attend.

 

“In 1987 our father died and at this sad time it was a comfort to see amongst the mourners Marty Bennett. He had heard the news and came to offer his support. Over the following years Marty regularly visited my mother, just dropping in to cheer her up and make sure she was going OK.  These visits meant a lot to her as it reminded her of many happy times. It was this level of caring and compassion that exemplified Marty Bennett. The last meeting was about a month ago when they had a lovely time together at the grand finals, especially with the triumph of the reserves team. 

 

Steve continues. “…in conclusion, Marty was a staple at the club for us for nearly 30 years. Whenever we attend in the future there will be a void that can never be filled. Marty loved every aspect of the Red Lions which is now without one of its most ardent and passionate players and supporters. In turn, we loved Marty.

 

Steve they are beautiful sentiments and they are shared by all here today. Saying good bye to a beloved teammate is never pleasant, especially one so young, but his sad passing has reminded us all that the clock is ticking and we better make ourselves useful and give each other a big hug. Goodbye Marty …the quintessential Red Lion and a top bloke.

 

 

Comments

  1. Peter Bennett says:

    My Brother Martin,
    I will never forget you Bro, you were the best. You touched so many lives in a wonderful way. Rest in Peace Mate.

  2. Philip Jones says:

    Marty was a gem in a larger than life stone. I only knew him for four years but he was a beautiful person.
    Martin in one image was a bushy moustache with an huge impish grin underneath.

  3. David Coulthard says:

    Have just found news of Martys passing. I was a friend of his and Carols during the time they resided in Melbourne and attended Kew High school. We kept in contact for quite a few years after they moved to Queensland and I am saddened to learn of his passing and send my best wishes to his family.

  4. Martin was a music lover also and a lover of life. His cartoons and sketches, his sense of humour, his travels and photography. Such a kind personn and a gentleman. We met at latin dance class, where he sketched a portrait of my sister as we danced. Martin, Panche, Kiwi Melissa and I became great buddies and hung out at many social dances in Southbank. Martin’s only dance was Merenge, he sat out for the rest. He is sadly missed, and I have a photo of he, Panche and I taking photos of our shadows on a visit to the country, which remains on my fridge 9 years later x

  5. I have such wonderful memories of my dear brother Martin. Steve, thank you so much for your heart touching story it always brings tears to my eyes when I read it. Martin appears in my dreams often, happy and healthy and always with a smile of his face, but then I wake up with a lump in my throat. Martin had so many friends world wide and they meant a lot to him. Rest in Peace dear brother, love you always Carol (Ca, as Martin called me) xxx

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