Nev’s Nifty Work – Neville Glover’s inspiring commitment to helping the rugby league community
Former Eels and international winger Neville Glover has travelled endless kilometres as a police prosecutor and now he’s on the way to matching his log book entries with charity work and Men of League appearances… all completely voluntary.
For long-suffering Parramatta Eels supporters, it was one of their most heart-breaking moments. The 1976 grand final v Manly. Seven minutes to go. Parramatta chasing their first premiership. Manly lead 11-10. Eels centre John Moran is metres from the try-line, passes to Neville Glover and…
The rest is history.
‘Nifty’ Neville Glover, just two months out of his teens that day, has been reminded endlessly of what might have been for the past four decades.
Yet not only has he gone on with a very fulfilling life, he’s never hid from one of grand final history’s most tragic moments which he confesses wryly – made him famous.
What many people don’t know about the kid from the housing commission fibro estate of Seven Hills is that while he’s happy to front up to that moment at his own expense; it is never at anyone else’s.
Because Glover is not only an amazing voluntary worker, guest speaker and auctioneer for many Men of League committees, but an avid charity fundraiser who just needs a phone call and a genuine cry for help for someone not as fortunate as him and he’s in his car, driving for hours to come to your aid, or is holding his hand out with memorabilia he paid for rather than for something in return.
Explains Glover, who I can reveal I’ve known since about eight years old as neighbours in that western Sydney rented ‘commission’ estate and who was a teammate in the first game of league I played at nine:
“I see so many good people fade away and die at early ages, or even late ages. It can be hard for their families and friends.
“My father died of a heart attack at 55, and my mother of cancer (at 72). I can empathise with what some people go through.
“If I can just add a bit of joy, or fun, or help raise much needed money… it’s something in my head that I know if I do it, it makes me feel good.
“And I like meeting people, especially in the bush.”
Glover spent 35 years in the police force, 29 as a prosecutor, before retiring at 61 last year. He reckons there are few NSW country towns he hasn’t visited (or had a beer or a few in) as a senior NSW prosecutor who clocked over a million kilometres doing business in scores of court houses from Sydney’s Children Court to Bourke.
He reckons there are only nine in non-metropolitan NSW he didn’t officiate at – and most of them are only opened some of the time.
He’s started to clock up a fair mileage chart in the past few years doing his charity work too, and hopes to increase his load now he has more ‘spare’ time.
Typical of his efforts was driving from his Central Coast home to Eden on the Far South Coast for their annual Men of League Golf Day in January. He organised for ten mates and brothers to accompany him, all paying their own way, carried out auctioneering duties, donated a framed signed photographic montage of Eels legends Peter Sterling, Brett Kenny, Eric Grothe and Ray Price… then drove on his brother to be the highest bidder for the goods.
After offering fellow Men of League delegates to help out whenever he could at their functions when he caught up at the annual conference on the Gold Coast in 2014, he was true to his word after receiving several phone calls – to the degree where he has been guest of the North West Committee at Manilla five times since and they now tag him ‘The Mayor of Manilla’.
And he typifies the true essence of the Foundation by doing it for nothing, not only paying his own travel expenses but offering to cover accommodation, which is rarely allowed by the locals.
“The great thing about Neville is that he’s just grateful for what the game has given him and he wants to give back, and this is his way of doing it,” said former Men of League Foundation NSW Manager Stuart Raper. “What he did in Eden is typical. And he asks for nothing in return.”
Last time at Manilla, he paid for seven memorabilia items on eBay, donated two and provided the other five at cost price. He took with him a bid from a mate of $700 for a framed jersey signed by the Melbourne Storm 2007 premiership team and won the bid unopposed, meaning the other six items were clear profit.
A mate told him of a young mother of two in Port Macquarie who was dying of cancer and asked if he could donate some memorabilia. A day later, Glover was on the phone to a stunned husband offering to attend as auctioneer to make sure they raised the maximum price.
“I encourage any of our members, many of which have better stories or profile than me, to donate their time to help others because it is so rewarding,” he said. “You don’t need anything else in return.”
Now, let’s set the record straight too before we finish the story about Nifty Neville.
Firstly, 1976. Many thought John Moran should have taken on the try-line himself; the ball was at Glover’s left hip, not in front of him, and if the Eels had scored John Peard would have had to convert from the touchline to have avoided the game going into extra time (as did happen a year later between the Eels and Dragons) as Graham Eadie kicked his fourth penalty goal of the game to make it 13-10 two minutes later.
Glover admits he was “down and out” for a good while after that grand final disappointment. He played the next season in reserve grade while the Eels’ top side marched to another grand final, and replay (loss).
He was back at the SCG on that grand final day a year later though, ironically against Manly, and starred in an 11-9 victory. All three Eels grade teams made it to the decider, with the under-23s and first grade going down.
“Our coach Len Stacker [obviously worried about Neville’s potential mental demons] pulled me aside before the game and said ‘Listen, the bottom line is this – you’re a first-grade player playing in reserve grade but this is your team now; forget about any other team; this is your team and this is your game’.
Glover was man of the match and got to do that lap of honour.
“The one thing I’m proud of is that I fought my way back,” he says. “After the grand final I trained all through the off-season and in ’78 I was fitter than I’d ever been and I was picked to play for Australia.” Glover played two Tests against the Kiwis that year, scoring two tries on debut in a 38-7 win at Lang Park. He was chosen, on the wing with Eric Grothe (snr), in the Eels ‘Legends’ team in 2002 after playing 121 first grade games in blue and gold. His last appearance for the club was the reserve grade grand final of 1981, alongside Arthur Beetson, the day the Eels finally broke their first grade premiership drought.
His career finished with three seasons at Dapto where he won a premiership with the Canaries but he has continued to give to the game, and its people, ever since.
When he does a guest speaking act and takes questions from the floor, and the audience seems too reticent or respectful to bring up ‘that pass’, he’ll prompt them himself.
“I can’t hide from it,” he laughs. “And I say to people; if I caught the ball and scored, whether we won or lost the game you’d probably never remember me. But because I’m the tragic guy who spilled the pass, I’m strangely famous … or is it ‘infamous’?
“It was devastating at the time, for me, my teammates and a legion of Eels fans. But life goes on, for all of us who have to overcome a setback. And if I can help other people do that, I certainly will try to.”
by Neil Cadigan