Endacott Honoured For a Lifetime in League
Few people in the Canterbury Rugby League fraternity are as decorated as Frank Endacott, but the legendary coach received a rare honour recently at the Canterbury Sports Awards as one of eight local sporting stalwarts given a lifetime achievement award.
“I was in pretty good company too, and I think they said between the eight of us there was 350 years’ service (to sport in Canterbury) – I think it might have been a bit more than that!” Endacott says.
“It was a good night, I felt pretty humbled accepting the award actually. I had no idea it was coming up.
“To get a lifetime achievement award for your sport, for something you enjoy doing, is great. It’s an honour.
“But there’s plenty of other people in our game who could’ve got it too, you know.”
Craig Sullivan (rugby union) and Lawrence ‘Buzz’ Jones (athletics) were among the illustrious eight, and the latter, in particular, provided a trip down memory lane for Endacott.
“They said before we went on stage, ‘there’s eight of you, one of you has to speak on behalf of the others’ – and all seven of them turned around and pointed to me, so I got the short straw,” he laughs.
“But even in that short speech I said to Buzz Jones, ‘I remember watching you running for Toc H when I was a 19-year-old.’ I can still remember watching him at Rugby Park and English Park in the sprints, and no one could beat him at that time – he was quick over the 100 metres.
“Every person there for the award deserved it for the service they put in over a lifetime for their sport.”
Endacott said could never have envisaged the twists, turns and giddy heights his rugby league journey – which now spans more than 60 years – would take from when he first became involved.
“I still remember my first outing in rugby league on the first day that Shirley Rugby League Club opened in 1955, I was seven years old,” Endacott, now 68, recalls.
“And from that day on I never thought I’d be Kiwi coach, Canterbury coach or anything, I just thought I was going to be a player, because I loved playing.
“You don’t see what’s in front of you sometimes, it just happens. It’s terrific the way life unfolds.”
From a plethora of highlights, Endacott had no hesitation in nominating his greatest moment in rugby league in Canterbury.
“A hundred percent, the ’93 (national championship) final, Canterbury-Auckland. That was a stunning performance by the players.”
Canterbury famously trounced a star-studded Auckland side 36-12 at a jam-packed Addington Showgrounds, a record defeat for the perennial heavyweights and widely regarded as the greatest day in the red-and-blacks’ rugby league history.
“Of course it was the only time outside of the Penrith (versus Warriors) game that I’ve ever seen (Rugby League Park) chock-a-block full,” Endacott says. “People were actually turned away that day, it was unreal.”
“It was the most parochial crowd I think I’ve ever seen at a Canterbury match of any sport, including rugby (union). It was an unbelievable atmosphere, and I spoke to a number of the Auckland players in the Kiwis after that and they said it was that intimidating.”
Most are familiar with his ‘Happy Frank’ moniker, but the ever-affable Endacott has also increasingly become referred to as the ‘Godfather of Canterbury Rugby League’ – a title, given his humble nature, he’s not entirely comfortable with.
“I’ve heard that from a few, but I don’t see it like that,” he says.
“I’ve done a bit in the game, but so have a lot of other people. A lot of people ask for advice and things like that, and it’s good because I’ve got a good memory from way back and I can talk rugby league for hours and hours and hours.
“It’s nice to be accepted like that from your peers and people within the sport, but I don’t know about ‘Godfather’ – I’ve seen the film. Don’t cross me!”
Endacott admits that rugby league has virtually been his entire life for the best part of a half-century – but he doesn’t regret a minute of it.
“The person that can tell you best about the amount of time I’ve given to the sport is my wife.
“I can remember I coached first grade (in Christchurch) and a young kids team coming through for many, many years at Hornby, from 10-year-olds through to about 19. So for 10 years I coached two teams – it was just full on.
“To be fair, and I’ve travelled the world many times with rugby league, it’s taken over my life really. But I’ve always found time for family and everything else, it’s just been a full book, a full calendar.
“But I do it because I love it. If I didn’t enjoy it I wouldn’t be doing it.”
“I haven’t lost any enthusiasm for the game – I’ve taken different roles on. I’m obviously too old to play now, I’ve done my years of coaching, and I’ve got a bit of an administration role now with the Canterbury Football Committee.”
A prominent player manager these days, Endacott was still coaching as recently as last year with the Northern Bulldogs 16s, and has taken on other roles such as being a local ambassador for the 2017 Rugby League World Cup (not that Sir Peter Leitch would have given him a choice in the matter!)
“I just enjoy giving back to the game,” Endacott says. “The game’s given me plenty over the years and I just want to somehow pay that back.”
“I always enjoying talking to young players, offering them pathways to the NRL because they need a bit of a leg-up and a bit of advice, and because of the contacts I’ve got worldwide I can help them.”
CANTERBURY RUGBY LEAGUE – WILL EVANS