Andrew Bryan, NRL.com
From being scouted at Picton as a 16-year-old, an NRL debut in the humble surrounds of Parkes, to rugby league outposts Paris and the US, it is fair to say 300-gamer Nathan Hindmarsh has done things slightly differently in his career.
A permanent fixture in the blue and gold for 15 years, Hindmarsh will go down as one of Parramatta’s favourite sons and for that, he can thank retiring South Sydney forward Scott Geddes in large part.
The talent scouts had gone to watch Geddes play in an under-16s fixture when they happened to spot a young upstart by the name of Hindmarsh. As it happened, both players did enough to earn contracts with Parramatta’s SG Ball side.
It was the start of an amazing journey that would take Hindmarsh around the world playing the game he loved.
“I was playing a game at Picton in under-16s with Scott Geddes who plays for South Sydney now,” Hindmarsh recalls to NRL.com.
“We had some talent scouts there that we were unaware of watching Scott play and they thought, let’s have a look at this bloke as well, which was me. I got a scholarship for Fairfield Patrician Brothers along with Scott Geddes, was billeted out to a nice family in Badgerys Creek. I think I lasted less than a month.
“During that time we both had invites to trial for the Parramatta SG Ball side, which we trialled for and made the team successfully and the story goes on from there.”
While Parramatta had undoubtedly found great talent, not in their wildest dreams could they have imagined Hindmarsh becoming a 300-plus game legend at the club. Players of that ilk do not come around very often.
When Hindmarsh retires, he will have played the seventh most top grade games in the history of rugby league in Australia - quite a step from a junior carnival in the placid surrounds of Picton.
“Yeah, two kids from the country - it was right time, right place,” Hindmarsh says.
“You don’t know when it is going to happen. You don’t know if anybody is watching. Thankfully for us, thankfully for me I had Scott Geddes in my team, because they came to watch him and I was in his side at the time.”
Hindmarsh has won a World Cup, State of Origin series and the prestigious Ken Stephen Medal but despite all his hard toil and over 12,150 lung-busting tackles, he will never attain the elusive NRL premiership he desired.
It is the one thing missing from an outstanding career but Hindmarsh says he has no regrets despite coming so close in 2001 and 2009 to winning a Grand Final.
The 2001 experience is one both he and retiring mate Luke Burt have both tried hard to block from their memory. Neither of the two Eels icons have ever been able to bring themselves to watch highlights of the game - it simply hurt too much.
“The 2001 (game) is one that I don’t remember, we were the best team in the competition by a long way,” he says.
“I remember we were smashing teams all year, we scored the most points in NRL history, defended really well. All it took was one game, one more game to play and win and we couldn’t do it.
“Newcastle got the jump on us early on and got out to a strong lead and we managed to peg it back to make the score look half decent, given another 10 or 15 minutes we could have won the game, but it wasn’t to be. It was a night to forget and I’ve tried to forget it.”
While he hasn’t tasted ultimate success with the Eels, Hindmarsh has had a stellar representative career including every possible jersey: World Cups, Tri-Nations, Four Nations, State of Origin, City-Country, NRL All Stars and a trip to Papua New Guinea for the Prime Minister’s XIII.
From trips to London, Paris and even the US to play rugby league, it is fair to say Hindmarsh has done it all.
Hindmarsh remembers his first Australian tour to England fondly.
“We won the World Cup which was nice. I managed to break my way into the top squad for the final, which I was very proud of," he says.
“You know I’ve got one game left, and once that game is over, I’ll sit and think I was very lucky to have played one season, let alone 15 to crack 300 games, so it is something I’m very proud of and that is where it sits for me.”
Hindmarsh will join fellow Eels mainstay Burt in farewelling the game when they take on St George Illawarra at ANZ Stadium on Sunday night. Dragons stalwarts Dean Young and Ben Hornby will also hang up the boots in what is sure to be an emotion-charged send-off.
But just like his good mate Burt, Hindmarsh baulks at the question of club-legend statu despite all the attention.
“When I think legend, I think of the blokes of the '80s, the blokes that won the Grand Finals. I think it would sit a lot easier with me if I had won a Grand Final definitely.
“I’m just a bloke who has been fortunate enough to play the game I wanted to play when I was growing up as a kid and that is something I’m very thankful for.”
Nathan Hindmarsh - humble to the very end.