Hornby tobow out as game star

Ben Hornby addresses a media conference yesterday. Picture: DAVE TEASEIt’s a massive rap from the greatest coach of all time, but then again you’d expect nothing less when you’re praising someone in the mould of Ben Hornby.

Hornby’s former coach at the Dragons, Wayne Bennett, yesterday joined a chorus of past and present teammates and associates to pay tribute to the departing Red V skipper.

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And Bennett didn’t muck around when asked to describe his time working with Hornby during his three-year tenure as Dragons coach, placing him in the same category as retired Brisbane legend Darren Lockyer.

‘‘He is inspirational, he is committed and he is a Dragon from his toe to his head,’’ Bennett said.

‘‘He had everybody’s confidence with his quiet demeanour, very much in the mould of Darren Lockyer. He has no ego and everything he does he does for the team.

‘‘He is an extremely balanced person and has had a tremendous football career.’’

Bennett, known to have a unique sense of humour around his inner sanctum, cracked a smile yesterday when recalling one of his first dealings with Hornby.

‘‘I think his most remarkable achievement was being able to convince me to play him at halfback,’’ Bennett laughed.

‘‘To the average fan it might not seem much to make the switch, but the confidence and belief he had in himself to be able to lead the team around the park the way he has is full credit to him, even with a very ordinary kicking game.’’

Former teammate Shaun Timmins described Hornby as a player who ‘‘always worked his butt off’’.

‘‘He probably wasn’t the most outstanding talent-wise player but he was so dedicated in what he did and I think that showed in the long run,’’ Timmins said.

‘‘He worked really hard as a young player. He played a lot of reserve grade and finally cracked it in first grade.

‘‘But he was so professional and dedicated in the way he went about his training.

‘‘The main thing that stands out for me with Ben Hornby would be his dedication and professionalism.’’

Paul McGregor said Hornby was a perfect role model for all youngsters and a great ambassador for his district and his club.

Like Timmins, McGregor also paid tribute to Hornby’s work ethic.

‘‘He’s what every young kid that wants to work hard can achieve at the highest level is about,’’ he said.

‘‘If you look at Benny, he started as a centre then pushed to the wing, then played fullback and finished his career at halfback, was captain, has played a club-record 271 first grade games, captained a grand final winning team, played for his state, played for his country.

‘‘For young kids out there that strive to play at the highest level, there’s no better role model than Benny Hornby.’’

Like Timmins and McGregor, Rod Wishart watched Hornby progress from junior representative footy through the grades and into representative ranks.

‘‘Some players work hard, get better and better and they mature as players and he’s testimony to that,’’ Wishart said.

‘‘That’s on the field. The other side is as a person. When you retire you’d like to be looked back at as a decent player but the other thing is as a good person. Hornby will join Dean Young and Beau Scott as long-serving club members in their final match in Wollongong in a Red V jersey on Saturday.

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