Rodney ‘Rocket’ Maynard: the running machine

Rodney ‘Rocket’ Maynard is addicted to footy. I reckon he is the guy who most loves footy of anyone I have met. Just a complete footy nut which probably explains why I got on so well with him. On more than one occasion at their house Cheryl suggested “haven’t you got a house to go home to?” Of course the fact that I was so quick on the uptake from a female, I realized Cheryl really meant “we would love you to stay”. Rocket loves footy as much as Steve Smith is addicted to batting

Back to the start – Rodney moved down to Adelaide from the family farm for schooling, boarding at PAC for Years 11 and 12 and playing Under 17s for Norwood. Rocket missed out on being selected in the SA Teal Cup team but came home with a rush. In the words of Under 17 captain Brenton Klaebe being a key player in the legs coming from fifth to defeat Central District and win the flag in ’83. Rocket made his league debut early in ’84 against Glenelg, playing a dozen games before playing in the losing reserves Grand Final. Rodney played mainly reserves in ’85, topping the goal kicking with 72 and playing in another flag. He also played in the superstar studded reserves flag in ’86 against Woodville where the Redlegs won by 100 plus points (we were very conservative and didn’t start celebrating till the five minute mark of the first quarter).

A heart to heart with Norwood’s chief administrator resulted in the commencement of Rocket basically becoming a fitness lunatic. A request by Rocket to be given a new role resulted in a move to defence which was beneficial for both him and the club. Playing full back and centre half back in ’87 he won the most improved award. Playing mainly forward out of necessity for the team in ’88, leading the goal kicking with 50 goals and finishing runner up in the Best and Fairest. Playing mainly back in defence in ’89 resulted in Rocket winning the Best and Fairest but what was acutely frustrating was the third place finishes.

In 1990 Norwood finished fifth in Neil Balme’s final year and in the summer of 1990 the Crows were born. Back then I also had the mo and red hair and at Victoria Park, after Collingwood had gone top, I told the guy on the door I was Rodney Maynard and I had signed to play for Collingwood the following year; “come in sir”. So I walk up to Craig Kelly – he shakes his head and says “on the biggest night of my life I am drinking with you”. I reply “you should feel privileged” (I didn’t overstay my welcome had a couple and joined Danny Hansen and Papa Raschella back outside. Just proved the old adage speak bullshit confidently and you get away with it. I will leave Danny to tell the story in the comments part re. him getting in to the game).

Rodney had established himself as a very good SANFL player with, when playing forward, just never standing still and basically running defenders off their feet or, when playing as a defender, running off and attacking. He was one of the first to play that role. Graham Cornes personally contacted Rodney telling him he could see a role for Rocket and when pre-season training started, if there was a person the grueling running sessions suited down to a T, it was Rocket. Asked for comment about Rocket for this article, Cornes said “an article won’t do him justice – you need to write a book”.

The Crows had quickly captured the SA sporting public’s imagination – a Friday night trial game against Essendon resulted in a record which will never be broken with well over 40,000 in attendance. In that crowd there was a nervous Cheryl Coleman, Rocket’s childhood sweetheart from Lameroo who was basically barracking for no injury to the Crows Number 18. Thankfully Rocket played well and was ok as they duly got married the following day.

The Crows first game was against the powerhouse Hawthorn. On the night the Crows, through adrenaline, played above themselves incredibly thumping the eventual premiers by 86 points. Rodney played in a back pocket and after Round 1 of the season found himself amongst the leading goal kickers, batting three majors.

Rocket quickly established himself as a genuine AFL player with his marking ability, long arms and reach (similar to Stephen Copping) and what a mullet! Highly respected within the playing group and, in assistant coach Michael Taylor’s own words, a dream to coach. Rocket won the inaugural best team man award during the Crows’ first season.

In one game St Kilda were thrashing Adelaide and Plugger Lockett had kicked 10. Rodney was moved to full back with instructions to play him closely. Lockett kicked his eleventh and the Crows coaching panel looked up and Rocket was 10 yards in front of Plugger. The runner is sent out – Rocket had held on to Plugger. Tony tells him “Rocket, let go otherwise I am going to belt you, you’re out cold and I get suspended for 10 weeks which isn’t in either of our best interests”. Who could blame Rocket for letting go?

In ’93 the Crows were a step ahead of the pack and played Rodney as a plus one (may well have been the club to invent the role). He was very influential with the Crows having a very good run. He hurt his collarbone against Sydney, missed the Crows’ first final against the Hawks, making his comeback for the legs dominating against South Adelaide. He came back and played well against Carlton and then, playing in the infamous preliminary final loss against the Bombers, in his own words “struggling” (way too hard on yourself Rocket – you did well standing James Hird and then competing when moved forward).

Individually Rodney continued to be a model of consistency playing as a key defender playing a mile outside his weight and size range, having to stand giants such as Stewart Loewe and Barrie Stoneham. Stints standing Gary Ablett – he was brilliant being so under sized. In ’94 and ’95 Rodney played some games for Norwood with the irony that Neil Craig was coaching Norwood and he didn’t exactly make it easy for any Crows listed Norwood player. I remember one game with Stephen Rowe, Matty Robran and Rocket on the bench – just bizarre! I am sure Neil Craig having his time again would do things differently with it not being in the best interests of anyone.

The 1995 season would be Rodney’s last in Adelaide – injuries and some frustration had caught up. Rocket played in the losing preliminary final against Centrals, getting injured during the game; the human mattress Matty Primus had accidentally trod on his toe and he received a enormous corky as well and would have been very unlikely to play in the Grand Final.

One funny bit re. Rodney’s addiction to running was he was actually banned from running by the Crows as his body fat ratio had got too low (geez, I reckon everyone reading would love to have that problem). Rodney lived close to Payneham Oval – we would get to cricket practice generally just after 5 p.m. Rocket would be running up and down the oval. We’d train roughly to about 7.30 –  Rocket was still running. Always wonder what Rocket could have done marathon wise (he admits it is a sporting regret never running one). Rodney in reality had got himself too lean and lost his strength to handle opposition key forwards. A move into the midfield as the gut runner should have occurred.

Rodney felt it was time that he pulled his weight on the three generation family farm in Lameroo, specializing in sheep and grain. It was like a new Football career was born, also where Rodney’s achievements border on the obscene. Six Mail Medals (best player in the association), brother Brenton with four Mail Medals himself. But for injuries and farm commitments Brenton would have played a hell of a lot more than 49 league games for Norwood. Rodney played in seven flags for Lameroo, 10 Best and Fairests, coached Lameroo for 11 years in three separate stints, coached SA Country, won the overall medal as the best player in the championships. He also had a stint of umpiring but returned to coaching as he missed the club aspect too much. He really has been an ornament to the game.

Maynard player/coaching the SA Country side

The travel aspect, driving down to the Parade from Lameroo generally on a Thursday, training, staying and playing on the Saturday and then driving back either Saturday night or on Sunday cannot be underestimated. Rodney is a Hall of Fame member of Norwood FC the SANFL and a member of the Crows team of the inaugural decade. Then his extraordinary career in the country, playing over 450 senior games – it is a career of longevity giving back to the game in so many ways. He is a champion of the game, a compete and utter footy nut, addicted to the game. Thank you for your friendship over the years and your love of the game.

His footy regrets are in the obvious – not playing in a premiership side for Norwood or Adelaide and, yep, despite his longevity, retiring too early. He admits he misses playing footy big time. He plays cricket for Lameroo nowadays (what a surprise, he loves fielding) and is involved as a past player at the Crows (Rocket I will annoy you to have an involvement with the Redlegs also). Rodney and Cheryl have three girls: Courtney; Tenille; and Abbey, and Rocket has followed their netball careers closely. All the best for the future Rodney and Cheryl!

Love people to share the article and comment below of your memories of Rocket at any level and involvement within footy. Thank you!

Presenting The Tigers’ Almanac 2017. Read all about it HERE.

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Comments

  1. Tapani Hietanen says:

    What a Legend! One of the best Backman in the business. Mr Reliable. So much respect for “Rocket”. My favourite inaugural Crow to put on the Guernsey.

  2. Bill Drodge says:

    Good all round article Malcolm.

    You’d have to say that Rockets Footy journey is a great example that perseverance does pay!

  3. Jeff Milton says:

    What an absolute champion. He just ran and ran and was so crucial to the Crows in their early days. Losing 3 prelim finals with Norwood in the late 80s (were they all against Glenelg? , who then couldn’t beat Port) and then the 93 AFL Prelim Final was just bad luck. Still he got all those premierships back in the country league. I seem to remember playing footy with you in 1990 and despite the red mo I am not sure that you covered quite as much territory as Rodney Maynard did.

  4. Only if RODNEY came back to play for Norwood for a couple of years he would of had one less regret and could of played in the 97 Norwood GF winning team . A great player who just went out week in week out and smashed it

  5. Stimulating reading “Rulebook.” Love the 1990 GF story, confidence and bravado and swagger can take you a long way.
    Maynard was one of those rock-solid, consistent players that you build your club around.

  6. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says:

    Did Rocket ever get mistaken for you Rulebook?

  7. Willow Wilson says:

    Another good article book. What a champion, an unassuming country bloke who could really play. Rocket appeared to be one of those players who had the ability to adapt to different positions effortlessly, but this was obviously backed up by a superior fitness base, perseverance, hard work and competitiveness. Not to mention a great mullet!
    Good recognition of a humble club man.

  8. Brilliant RB. Didn’t know much about Maynard’s story, but certainly remember him playing. Great story. Local clubs really need blokes like Maynard to return to them. Not sure it will happen as often these days as players chase the money (and fair enough too).

  9. Gotta love those footy nuts! Great read Book

  10. Phillip Casburn says:

    Our family had the privilege of billiting Rocket when he was around 15 around 1983 84 for country junior championships. Then we were invited to their farm at wilkawat near Lameroo In the next school holidays Still the funniest name for a town i have ever heard.But funnily enough my brother & I found that that wasn’t the only funny thing in Wilkawatt. Both Rodney & his brother Brenton were a comedy duo act on their own. Like my brother & i they were sports nuts. But the funny thing was them doing their own commentary while having a kick to kick or Scratch match together I couldn’t stop laughing the whole time we were there. Would give Rex hunt a run for his money.
    While we were there association medals were awarded & Rod won I think the first of his mail medals but you wouldn’t have known he was humble on his own achievements.
    obviously we never knew what career he was going to have back then but it was the first time I realised why county kids are so successful in sport. when they spend so much time playing in their massive back yard & the support of family & their discipline on working on family farms.
    Watching Rocket & his brother through their careers in Adelaide it was a privilege to meet him & his family & cherish that week in Wilkawatt with the funniest name on Earth
    Thanks Rocket for a great career & Malcom for telling his story

  11. DBalassone says:

    Superb Rulebook, just superb. I wish he did come to the Pies. Might have been the difference in ’92.

  12. Great article Rulebook. Rocket was a great player for Norwood and for the Crows in their first few seasons. A reliable defender with a great tank to match. I first saw Rocket play in the 1990 SANFL Elimination Final against the (mighty) Panthers and he was easily Norwood’s best player that day- I think he kicked 5 goals playing up forward. It surprises me given the number of goals he kicked for Norwood in the 1980’s that he didn’t play up forward more when he was in the Crows side. Rocket will no doubt be proud of this article Rulebook. Well done mate.

  13. Dave Brown says:

    Yep, another one of my childhood favourites, Rulebook. Always acquitted himself well in the AFL against taller and heavier opponents. As you note, the ability as a defender to run off them and hurt them on the rebound, was the genesis of changing the way the game was played and a contributing factor to the end of the era of the great full forwards.

    All of those third place finishes – the footy landscape might be different now if we didn’t allow Port to dominate that period.

  14. Jill Tathra says:

    To me, and I only remember him from the Crows, he came across as making up the numbers unless the ball was near. That may be a very wrong way to describe him but I can`t think of a way as he seemed to have that quiet calmness about him but in fact was a brilliant footballer. A bit like a big brother looking out for his sister, you did right by her and brother is one of the boys but boy oh boy don`t do wrong.

    Great write up on really great player. Thanks mate

  15. Rulebook – We are not all blessed with high levels of ability, but attitude and work rate is entirely up to the individual – Rocket had all three bases covered!

  16. Great article again, what a legend

  17. Mark Clarke says:

    That sort of DEDICATION should be THE baseline at the TOP LEVEL.

  18. Great article – love you impersonating Rocket!

  19. I was a huge fan of Maynard the Crow HBF because of his no nonsense, reliable, team first approach. Since Rocket there have been other Crows which remind me of him – Ben Hart for the way he played yards in front of monsters, Marty Mattner for his rebound gut running off HB, and Jake Lever with his telescope arm interceptions.

    Like Jim Stynes he just seemed to keep going, so I am a tad surprised at the injury problems you refer to. Sad day when he hung up his boots when he obviously still had capacity to contribute to his exemplary honest standards.

    Nicely written, Book!

  20. One of my top 5 players I have seen play in my life time, in fact, he would be number one out my five. Rocket played consistent football week in week out. Even if he didn’t get a large amount of touches in a game, you could still be guaranteed that what he did with that touch was not wasted. Some times you don’t have to do great things with the ball during a game, sometimes it’s the commitment and passion you carry with you on to the oval than can help carry the team, and that’s what Rodney had. A pure joy to watch

  21. Keep these up mate becausevi bet theres guys n gurls out there like myself who love these stories and the history that’s behind the players and their lives/playing careees.

    Love reading these when i can mate, you’re doing a top job Rulebook

  22. Great article Malcolm.
    Rocket was a fella that many of the Mallee community looked up to and his record and modesty shine thru.
    Brenton was a top player too.

  23. Malcolm Ashwood says:

    Thanks Tapani,Bill v much so.Milts Rocket a tad more athletic than me.Rob yes geez wish,Rocket had played in a legs flag.Lachy yep confident bullshit goes a long way and he was BP the quiet achiever.
    Swish regularly.Willow thank you and v well put.Dips yep he’s a gun has given back plenty.thanks,Ben.
    Phillip superb greatly appreciated.DBalassone thank you there were a few Crows experienced players from the SANFl who showed they should have been recruited earlier such as David Marshall.Paul yes
    Rocket easily our best player on that day his versatility was a huge strength as I have said above the midfield also beckoned.Dave well said yes that role agreed played a role in the end of the full forward and yes those bloody third place finishes we will never no.thanks,Jill.IT very well put.Campbell thank you.
    Mark as dedicated as any one I have met and who well and truly went the extra mile literally.Model yes no nonsense team first is spot on with his longevity a strength with the odd injury a problem the collarbone the worst I can remember.Lisa thank you,Rocket is unassuming and modest I don’t think he realises how many people he was the hero of commitment and passion is spot on.Rambo greatly appreciated.Snowy I was conscious of trying to give,Rodney’s amazing accomplishments in the country appropriate recognition hopefully I succeed to some extent thanks folks

  24. John Tilbrook says:

    I’ve read the story – almost impossible to understand why someone is so passionate about a game. That’s the way it is – give it your all and you will be rewarded. I understand the the story! I asked my family to board Sandy Nelson (1965 – 1974) from Scotch College as he wanted to explore his abilities in SAFL rather than to return to the Block in Loxton. What a difference that made – 7 Grand Finals with the Sturt Football Club and now Patron of the Sturt Vice-Presidents Club. I couldn’t be prouder of Sandy, my best friend.
    Cheers,
    John (Diamond Jim) Tilbrook

  25. Tim Wright says:

    Great article on one of my favourite Norwood players. Might be mistaken but I think he was the first Crows player to reach 100 games, testimony to his durability. One of the most reliable performers I can remember, a tragedy he never got to experience a Redlegs flag.

  26. Rick Neagle says:

    Well done book. Longevity in the game is something to be admired. Was an honour to play with him. A gem!

  27. E.regnans says:

    Well played R Maynard.
    Respect.

    That’s a wonderful story, OBP.
    Full of admiration for this man, who achieved so much. No doubt R Maynard has influenced many others through his actions; through his choices.

    Thank you.
    On we go.

  28. byron bay says:

    philip, how old was Rod when he won his first mail medal. It sounds young 15 maybe unless i have misinterpeted your comment

  29. Another great article rulebook.Growing up rodney was always one if my favourite redlegs (also thought brenton had the x factor just never got to see it enough).Followed his career to the crows and then back to lameroo,but your article sheds light in other areas and makes my memories of rodney grow even fonder.

  30. phillip casburn says:

    Hi Byron Bay
    He won the medal in senior colts I think, although he was playing senior footy as well. I can’t remember if A grade or B grade

  31. Michael Aish says:

    Great man is Rocket. Committed, great character and his record speaks for itself. First picked every week. Amazing sacrifice to pursue what he loved. If any young person needs a role model to look to Rodney is your man.

  32. Luke Reynolds says:

    Another fantastic tribute Malcolm. Quite a career pre-Crows by Maynard, for us Victorians these guys just appeared in 1991, most without much backstory. Adelaide were an extremely entertaining team to watch in the 90’s and remember him well as a quality player. Was there any VFL/AFL approaches to him prior to 1991?

  33. Martin Rumsby says:

    Some interesting insights, Malcolm. Rocket’s dedication to the game at many levels and spanning decades make him a very worthy member of the Hall of Fame.

  34. SamtheMan says:

    You’re right Mal, he ran himself ragged and needed more size to deal with the gorilla’s in the AFL. Nevertheless a fantastic player who played as a stop gap for coaches, I think this hurt his career, the fact he couldn’t just stay on a wing or play loose in defence. It seemed whenever the Crows were down he was the first one they moved.

  35. Top story fpr a top footballer.

  36. Malcolm Ashwood says:

    Thanks Diamon Jim I feel privledged that you have commented and have sent your thoughts on to Sandy
    Tim Rocket was 1st to 50 games for the Crows.Neags v much so thank you.OBP Rocket has influenced and continues to do so a generation of country folk in particular thank you.Byron and Phillip thank you.
    Ray greatly appreciated.Aishy you absolutely nailed it.Luke thank you I admit not 109 per cent sure re interest from vfl clubs ( don’t think so ) I will check with Rocket.Martin v much so a well deserved member of the Hall of fame.StantheMan definitely some truth in that in regards yep that didn’t help.Rocket thanks,Boges thanks folks

  37. Malcolm Ashwood says:

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=xPm5S7RjkUw
    A really important message from Rocket

  38. Mark Strange says:

    Loved watching Rocket firstly with the Legs and then with the Crows. A true country boy just never gave up. A great mark, great kick. Fearless and never gave up. Courageous and fit as a fiddle. Truly deserving of being inducted. Thanks for the memories Rocket

  39. One the most reliable players to have pulled on a gurnsey. You always know what you would get from him every week. No doubt the travel over the years would have an impact.

  40. george smith says:

    Rodney’s encounter with Lockett calls to mind another Norwood great, Craig Kelly of Collingwood. At the end of his career, Kelly used the “pinchy-pinch” on Geelong’s Gary Ablett Senior, and put the great man right off his game. When asked if he would use similar tactics against big Tony, Kelly used words along the lines of – come off it, do you think I’m completely stupid, and indicating that he wished to live for the foreseeable future!

  41. David Butler says:

    Thanks Rulebook,
    I’ve never met Rocket but seems to have had a genuine love for the game, whether playing in front of 50,000 or 500 spectators. A very fair player who am sure is respected by all he played with or against. I remember well him having to stand Wayne Carey at his absolute peak in a night game in Melbourne and making a tremendous fist of it.

  42. David Robinson says:

    Just an awesome team player and footballer. Would be one of the first I’d pick if I was starting an All Star team. Not many would think of him as that but his skill, durability, team first mentality, sacrifice…honestly there are a hundred other words you could say…Loved him and was certainly appreciative Norwood had him :)

  43. Nathan Watson says:

    Great read Malcolm, Rocket was such a great player. It always amazed me how a skinny bloke like him played in a time when size was king. He’d of been a coaches dream and first name on the team sheet. Seriously, well ahead of his time. He’d, in his prime today dominate the AFL. The modern day game is all about athletes, fitness and flexibility. That’s Rocket for you and he wasn’t short on skill level. You’d know mate, wasn’t he still playing or still is playing?

  44. Barry Solomon says:

    What a fantastic read mal, how blessed we were in the early days to spend time with rocket as he went about his footy in such an unassuming manner. A really top bloke and so completely humble. Hard to explain to the younger generation what a workhorse he was and the way he went about it in those early years at both Norwood and the crows. Thanks for delivering the memories mal.

  45. Rocket was a favorite of mine in the day. He was one the most consistent players I’ve seen pull on the tri colours. He played tough honest fair accountable footy.

  46. Excellent article. I actually had the privilege of standing the great man in 96 at country championships in adelaide rocket was the captain of the murray mallee side with his brother brendan i was playing for the Mid north/ York peninsula We played a different zone each day at a different leauge oval. The first game was against murray mallee at norwood oval i started on a hb and rocket started on my hb changing on the ball. One thing i remember about him that set him aside was something he didnt get a lot of credit for was his hang time in the air. He would still be on the way up and i would be on the way down he was marking the ball and youd be punching him in the middle of the back . That was the reason why he was so effective against tall forwards he could fly like jordan.I was only 19 it was my first zone game and to stand him was special. I actually got him holding the ball he got up gave me the ball patted me on the arse put gis hands up on the mark and said “good tackle son “. For a minute i froze and was in awe the great man acknowledged me something i still remember to this day

  47. Bron Paul says:

    Ever talented, incredibly generous with his time to The Mallee & beyond & still running!!!
    Rocket Maynard…Lameroo legend & first Crow to play 50 games.

  48. Charles Buhagiar says:

    I was privileged to sponsor Rocket when he was at the Crows. A very humble and balanced person and a very good family man. A credit to Footy.

  49. Rocket was a legend bloody great defender and bloody good kick

  50. What wonderful memories of the Rocket. A most enjoyable read Malc. I couldn’t believe the stamina of the man – always on the move and delighted in kicking a goal. He was a real favourite of my group of fans at the game. Not being able to go to a game these days, I really miss the comerardy of Birdy, Walshy, Stormy, Kurt, Prickle Head etc at the matches.

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