DAN Runchel’s first coach was Maitland legend David “Java” Bevan.
A beast of a man, Bevan won the Anderson Medal in 1981 and played breakaway in the Blacks’ 1977 and 83 premiership sides.
“He was a machine,” Rundel said. “I came across from soccer in the under-9s and all of sudden this big man is telling me how to play the game. I still remember him at training. He would turn up with a stick and absolutely jam us. I thought ‘how good is this’. Any coach did that these days, there would be lawsuits. We loved it. That has stayed with me.”
On Saturday, Runchel will run out for his 185th first-grade game and leapfrog Bevan into third on the all-time club list. Jack Lynch is top with 267 ahead of brother Chris (216). Bevan’s record had stood for 34 years.
“I see Java on old boys’ day and often have a beer with him,” Runchel said. “The milestone is probably something I will reflect on more when I’m finished.”
Runchel, a breakaway turned hooker, made his first grade debut in 2001.
“I was 19 and Maitland had won back-to-back competitions (1998-99) a couple of years before and there was a bit of a change over,” he said. “Freak (Christian Taylor), Darren Dimmock and Adam Perkins were still there and the rest of us were pretty young. I think I made my debut alongside my older brother Jon.”
The Runchel brothers were side-by-side when the Blacks went down to Hamilton 39-34 in the 2010 grand final.
“Playing with Jon, that was always good fun,” Runchel said. “The best thing about Maitland is that you are playing with blokes who have always been around the club. In the GF, we had 12 or 13 out of the starting team who were Blacks juniors.”
Runchel, 34, has played lower grades in recent seasons, apart from the odd first-grade game when needed.
A talented rock musician, he plays gigs most weekends, has three small children, works in Singleton and is studying a bachelor of business.
“I’m fortunate, my wife Micarla is very supportive,” he said. “I have played third grade for the past two years. The first-grade team has been building pretty solidly. It’s exciting with the players we have got and the young guys coming through. That gave me the incentive to have another crack. With Carl Manu and Travis Brooke coming in, the professionalism they bring really shines through. The hardest thing is finishing a game – I’m getting older and it hurts a lot more – and then finding the energy to carry the [music] gear in and play. Try and put on a half decent show. Then get home pretty late and the kids run around early the next morning. If I won a first a grade premiership, that would do me. I couldn’t finish in a better way.”