Douglas Knight has been an institution in North Queensland's rugby league community for many years – spending more that half a century helping the next generation of players to foster their love of the game.
While not one to chase any attention for himself, Queensland Rugby League's Mackay-based operations manager Jade Johnson nominated Knight as a good news story to share and he was then featured in the local television news broadcast.
“You didn’t need to make a big deal of me,” Knight said of the interest in his story and background in rugby league.
“(But) it was quite good; once that went to the news, because we don’t have newspapers anymore, I got about 200 congratulations through Facebook and emails; different ones (from people) who I had coached or taught.
“It’s amazing when you think about that (and the number of people).
“We have just been out and about (in town) today and everyone’s ‘you are a movie star’,” Knight laughed.
“They do treat me well up here, it’s a good place to live.”
This year, Knight is coaching an under 6 team in the Mackay junior league; but his first coaching assignment was back in 1965 in Bowen.
“I started coaching is 1965 in Bowen when I went back teaching,” Knight said.
“They used to send you back to your hometown, so I had a year in Bowen, and I played football there too at the same time.
“I grew up in Bowen too virtually. Dad played league until he was 40-odd, much to mum’s disgust, but anyway, and he was tied up with the football club in Bowen for a long time.
“My brother and I played football and we watched dad as kids.
“(Later), I was coaching a school side, up to grade 12, I think we only played one game against Queens Beach which was another Bowen school.”
A key factor in his longevity has been enjoyment; not just for him, but for those he coaches, which now includes more female players than ever before.
“I now coach under 6s, because I am that old and we are always short of coaches,” Knight said.
“They are still kids, but they enjoy it, so that’s the main thing.
“I wouldn’t have lasted that long if I didn’t enjoy it.
“In the last couple of years, we’ve had a couple of girls and the funny thing is, a lot of times, they are the better players.
“It’s been a good move with the girls, because the funny thing is, the girls who came to start playing pick up these skills a lot easier than the boys; because the ones that have come over to play have already been athletes in netball or whatever and they have come over to learn and they do learn.
“Their skills are quite good for the amount of time they have been playing football.
“But most of them have been playing with their brothers anyways, their brothers tackle them anyway (in the backyard).
“The toughest six-year-olds now are the ones with older sisters.”
Arguable one of the most decorated players to come from the region has been former Queensland and Australian Jillaroos representative Renae Kunst, who has worked extensively with Knight over the years in her role as the NRL’s North Queensland regional game development manager.
“Dougy, as he is affectionately known, is a complete gentleman and I have been fortunate to know him in my last 10 years working in game development,” Kunst said.
“We are so fortunate that Dougy chose our game to be a part of to coach, mentor and inspire many generations of young players coming through in his 50-plus years of coaching.
“Everyone knows and loves the man and his contribution and impact not only to rugby league, but what he was given to the Mackay community is truly inspiring and a feat not many would achieve in their lifetime.”
A coach, mentor, registrar, life member of Souths Sharks rugby league club, the Mackay Junior Rugby League and also, the Carina in Brisbane thanks to his work in enabling a junior team exchange with the club that continues today after the first team travelled down in 1973; Knight’s contribution to the game has been rich and varied.
While he has helped provide a welcoming environment for young players to develop their skills over the many years; for Knight, his main reward has been seeing the kids grow up and forming great friendships.
“I have been tied up with a few things; I have been around a bit, yes,” Knight said.
“I think (I still love rugby league) because you make good friends.
“(When I started out) I grew up in Bowen and you didn’t have too much to do there; we only had two sports, cricket and football and I was bloody shocking at cricket.
“I was never a good trainer either which is not something you tell the kids (now), but when we were about 15 / 16; we had a young school teacher who took us as a town side and we used to train every day, it was just a matter of getting together.
“I have enjoyed it; I have enjoyed the years.
“I have enjoyed seeing the kids grow up and I have been lucky, because being a school teacher, you usually get shipped all over the place, but I have been around this year virtually since 1966, I have been here for a while.”
And with junior players eager to learn more about rugby league each season; he’ll be around for a while yet, sharing what he knows with the future of the game.
Main image: Renae Kunst, Douglas Knight and Kevin Bathe (Souths Sharks).