To know Kurt Fearnley, the man of the moment, the supreme athlete, is to know where he comes from, know a bit about his family background, and know what makes him tick.
You see, Kurt, now a Novocastrian, was reared in a tiny place called Carcoar, located in a deep valley, just off the Mid-Western Highway, between Blayney and Cowra, in the NSW Central West; steep, cold country, where good, old fashioned bush folk live, true to the land.
He was born of good stock; father, Glen was the youngest of six Fearnley boys who were tall, strong men, built like they were chiselled out of the rocks from the Carcoar hillsides. Add four sisters, all talented sports women in their own right, and we have a typical country family back in the mid-20th century.
As six brothers would, they had their regular fights when growing up, but an outsider daresn’t say a word, less the wrath of the Fearnley boys would come down on them, and hard.
Glen and his brothers, Ian, Kenny (deceased), Charlie, better known as ‘Chum’ (deceased), Greg and John (aka ‘Colonel’) were tough rugby league players who between them turned out mainly for Carcoar, Cowra and Blayney throughout their distinguished careers. Ian had a stint with a good Balmain Tigers lineup back in the 60’s. Five of the brothers were dyed-in-the-wool front rowers, while Kenny broke the mould and played lock and five-eight.
‘Colonel’ was the smallest of all the lads, but still played in the front row and was an uncompromising prop, who asked no favours and certainly gave none. His son John, a rugged defender played over 79 first grade games in the forwards for Parramatta (76) and South Sydney (3), while two of John’s boys, Adam and Bradley are on the verge of big things with the Penrith Panthers; the rugby league nursery continues to churn out stars.
Greg was a mountain man. He was, and still is, rated among the greatest rugby league front rowers to have pulled on a boot in ‘bush’ footy. The genial giant was a member of the mighty Western Division sides of the 70’s, coached by the legendary Johnny King, who came up with the memorable Amco Cup victory over the flashy city boys and gave the Poms one of their toughest ever matches at Wade Park, Orange in 1974; Greg and his adversary, Jim Mills were both sent off in the 79th minute.
I had the privilege to play in Blayney’s premiership winning team, alongside Colonel in 1977, against none other than ‘Big Greg’. That’s right, brother packing down against brother, in a no holds barred contest that went the way of the Blayney Bears 7-6, and brotherly love went out the window for 80 minutes.
The Fearnley brothers became famous in the region for their rugby league prowess, but it was as pillars of the Carcoar community that they are best known and respected.
The men and women of the Fearnley clan all reside in the quaint village, a stones throw from each other’s front door, and go about their daily chores with little fuss or bother; wander down to the local once or twice a week; stir the pot a bit and remain wonderfully true to their roots as strong minded Carcoar people.
None of the Fearnley boys sitting at home last night in front of the TV would ever have imagined that one of their own, Kurt, would have reached such great heights in his chosen field, but knowing the tenacity, spirit and willpower among his close family it is no surprise that he has become a legendary para-athlete.
True to form, the three-time Paralympic gold medallist produced one of his trademark gutsy displays to take silver in the T54 1,500 metres final on Tuesday night at a roaring Carrara Stadium, as he now prepares for his farewell appearance in Australian colours in Sunday’s marathon.
And, true to form was the powerful message he delivered, calling for Australia to embrace inclusion of people with disabilities and the example of the 2018 Commonwealth Games as a template as to how this can be achieved.
But as encouraging as the energy and goodwill created by the Commonwealth Games has been, Fearnley stresses it will be to no avail if progress is not made in other fields.
“Let’s have this conversation on a greater level and let’s make sure we can do something positive for what’s happening right here,” he said.
“It’s working, it’s good, it’s the right thing to do. Now let’s use it as a pivotal moment. Tomorrow morning have that yarn wherever you are.”
One senses that the great man still has one last swansong to play out in front of his countrymen; Sunday could yet be something really special in all our lives.
Colonel expects Kurt to “go out on a big note. He wants to produce something special for the people who have supported him throughout his career in Australia.”
Turn on the tele, it could be three hours we’ll remember forever.