Brisbane Broncos coach Wayne Bennett paid a moving tribute to foundation part-owner Gary Balkin after the former hotelier and entrepreneur died after a short battle with pancreatic cancer on Thursday night.
Balkin, along with Barry Maranta, Steve Williams and the late Paul Morgan, were the initial owners and mentors of the Brisbane Broncos. They brought Bennett back to Brisbane from Canberra, where he’d taken the Raiders to their first grand final alongside Don Furner, to be the Broncos' foundation coach.
Last month about 30 people attended a tribute lunch for Balkin and less than 48 hours before his death he lunched with NRL.com columnist Steve Renouf and fellow Broncos identities John Ribot, Allan Langer, Andrew Gee, Glenn Lazarus and John Plath despite his ailing health.
"It has been a morning of reflection for myself personally, knowing what we have here today [at the Broncos] is because of what he and three other men did," Bennett said.
"The club that we are is in the vision of what they wanted the Broncos to be and be perceived as. He was very instrumental in that and a great friend to us all.
"They [the foundation club owners] never had any wavering doubt about me and it was the making of a young coach that they had the confidence and belief that I could do what they wanted me to do here; it's a great story."
Balkin, pictured second from left above, played in the premiership team at Beaudesert in southern Queensland under the coaching of Bennett's father in law and moved to Brisbane where he played for Souths. After retiring from the game he funded an award for the Brisbane competition's top try-scorer each season.
He was also well known as the owner of the famous Brisbane River paddle-steamer The Kookaburra Queen and Bonaparte's floating restaurant.