Steve Mascord, NRL.com
When reporters sat down to cover the Round 14 Monday Night Football match between Brisbane and Wests Tigers, the extreme right seat in the Suncorp Stadium press box was left vacant as a mark of respect for veteran AAP reporter Wayne Heming.
After almost 40 years covering rugby league, 62-year-old Heming was made redundant following Origin I in Sydney. He wrote the news agency’s preview of the very first State of Origin game in 1980 and began covering games in the iconic series the next year.
Heming, who will be employed next Wednesday by The Courier Mail for one night only at Origin II, has seen star players, coaches, administrators and scandals come and go but says the modern-day player is under more scrutiny than ever.
“Back when I first started covering rugby league in Sydney in the mid-1970s players got away with things because there were no mobile phones and they often had ‘contacts’ who fixed things up,” Heming told NRL.com.
“But those days are well and truly gone and the intense scrutiny on players is such that they can't step out of line, or they get dobbed in.”
Next Wednesday will be an emotional one for ‘Ticker’ Heming who has been probably the longest-surviving fixture at Origin games since 1981.
His favourite memories include Wally Lewis announcing his retirement at halftime in the deciding game of the 1991 series. “Lewis, who'd only learned before the game his young daughter Jamie-Lee had been diagnosed as profoundly deaf, walked off Lang Park a winner for the last time,” he recalls.
His best game and gutsiest win was the Origin II of 1989, when Queensland won in Sydney despite a slew of injuries.
Tries by Mark Coyne and Mark McGaw were his favourites and the Maroons’ 1995 success was the most remarkable series victory he saw.
“While I have to confess I was born in Manly – that's in Queensland isn't it – I have always loved the attacking, never-say-die style with which Queensland play and the way they compete,” says Ticker.
Fans can continue to benefit from Wayne’s lifetime of Origin experience at his new website, wayneheming.com.
He hopes to announce other new ventures soon.
But regardless of Wednesday’s result, an era in Origin that goes back a long way further than seven seasons will end when he packs up his laptop and walks out of the stadium sometime around midnight.
BEST OF ROUND 14: The crowd of 16,118 that showed up to Barlow Park for South Sydney-Gold Coast. The Bunnies will be back next year.
WORST OF ROUND 14: Wests Tigers’ defence before tries to Matt Gillett and Scott Prince on Monday night. Bordering on pathetic.
WEIRDEST OF ROUND 14: The description over the PA of conditions at Suncorp on Monday night as “icy”. Um, anyone in Canberra seven days earlier. It was balmy at Suncorp by comparison!
WHAT I SAW: Johnathan Thurston trying to keep the ball in the toe, soccer style, during a video refereeing decision in Wollongong on Friday – and whistler Phil Haines counting how many strikes of the ball he got to.
QUOTE OF ROUND 14: “Ben, you had a fifth child last week. Congratulations. Have you had any since?” Peter Sterling to Ben Hannant on Triple M radio.