Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service CEO Richard Jones OAM reflects on his brief, but brilliant, stint at Singleton Greyhounds Rugby League Football Club

SINGLETON GREYHOUNDS LEGENDS: Mark Newman, JJ Bayley, Richard Jones and Gary Gardner at Friday night's season launch at the Albion Hotel..
SINGLETON GREYHOUNDS LEGENDS: Mark Newman, JJ Bayley, Richard Jones and Gary Gardner at Friday night's season launch at the Albion Hotel..

HE'S famously known as the chief executive officer of the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service (WRHS) these days.

But, in another lifetime, Richard Jones OAM was a very talented rugby league player.

And, his deeds for the Singleton Greyhounds are etched in the record books.

Fascinatingly, Jones only played one season with the Bengalla Hunter Valley Group 21 club.

However, as captain-coach, he guided the side to a premiership in 1990, while also collecting the Clayton Cup as the best overall team in NSW Country.

He wrote a weekly column for The Singleton Argus, too.

"That was an amazing period," the former St George Dragon said.

"I rocked into town - and the rest is history.

"We beat the Aberdeen Tigers that year.

"But, I must admit, I inherited a side, which had lost the previous two grand finals.

"So, it was a strong team.

"I remember Singleton bringing a bus down [to Newcastle] to sign me up.

"Maybe I provided the extra ingredient or, perhaps, I took a bit of pressure off Steve Mullen because he had a great season.

"They were an outstanding bunch of guys, with a number of talented kids in the mix, too.

"It was a real happy time [at the Greyhounds].

"I honestly think that played a big role in our success.

"In fact, I still keep in contact with a number of the boys."

Pic: www.dansnrlcollectables.com

Pic: www.dansnrlcollectables.com

Twelve months later, in 1991, after returning to South Newcastle, the rugged hooker joined fellow Greyhounds legend Gary Gardner in the Country Firsts line-up, which tackled a star-studded Sydney outfit that boasted the likes of Ricky Walford, Tim Brasher, Greg Florimo, Brad Izzard, David Fairleigh, Mark Carroll, Mario Fenech, Steve Roach and current St George-Illawarra coach Paul McGregor.

"That was another excellent season; I ended up winning the NSW Country Player of the Year award," Jones said.

"However, playing against Sydney Firsts with GG (Gardner) was a wonderful experience.

"He's just a good bloke from a great family - and an even better player.

"You can see why GG's so respected within the code.

"He always led from the front; and the guys would do anything he'd ask.

"Singleton's lucky to have someone like him involved in the game."

In 2017, Jones returned to town again after being named in the Top 20 "Greatest Singleton Greyhounds" squad.

The illustrious list also included Gardner, Chris Martin, Russell Richards, Luke Gardner, Steve Richards, Pat Kelly, Jack Spinks, Arthur Earl, JJ Bayley, Glen Lantry, Dale Tinman, Ron Burgess, Bob Wild, Allan Whatham, Max White, John Scougall, Paul Neely, Ray Stewart and Arthur Schultz.

"It was extremely embarrassing [to be selected], considering all the players who have represented the club," Jones said.

"But, it was a real honour, too.

"Being asked to speak on the night blew me away as well.

"That's why I loved coming here on Friday night for the Greyhounds' 2020 season launch."

Jones praised Singleton's hard-working committee, led by president Brad Schultz, for taking part in the inaugural Newcastle and Hunter Community Rugby League competition, which kicks off on July 18.

"It'll be a great test for them - and one they needed to take," he said.

"It's a terrific accolade to play for the Greyhounds.

"And, the players must grab this opportunity [at a higher level] with both hands.

"I applaud the move."