Mark in union with rugby's best players

MARK Cassidy's job as a sports physiotherapist has seen him rub shoulders with some top-class rugby union players.

He did again in Sydney on Thursday night but the 45-year-old from Hervey Bay wasn't working - he was being honoured for his contribution to the game as a volunteer at the John Eales Medal awards night.

Cassidy was one of the eight nominees in the running to win the Australian Volunteer of the Year award after another busy year of rugby commitments for the former coach of the Fraser Coast Mariners Rugby Union Club.

The Queensland Country Heelers physio this season, Cassidy and the other nominees found themselves in the spotlight on the night of nights for the Australian Rugby Union fraternity.

It is the rugby union equivalents to cricket's Allan Border Medal, AFL's Brownlow Medal and of course, the NRL's Dally M Medal.

Cassidy and the other nominees were introduced individually on stage and applauded for their efforts by some of the greatest players the game has ever seen.

The winner of the award was announced later, Steve Gann from Western Australia got the nod, but Cassidy, who worked as physio at the 2000 Sydney Olympics and the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, said that didn't bother him.

“It was just so great to be there in the first place - not many people get the chance to rub shoulders with the who's who of rugby union,” Cassidy said.

“Anyway, it wasn't about winning awards for me because I do what I do because I love it doing it and I'm not in it to win awards.”

During the night, Cassidy, who started playing rugby as a six-year-old in Sydney and has not had a season off since in his roles as player, coach or physio, spent time talking to plenty of players including the man the medal is named after, John Eales, and the man who won it this year, Wallabies fly-half Matt Giteau.

He said both thanked him for the job he and all the other volunteers in the game did.

“They said they really appreciate the job we do,” Cassidy said.

“That felt really good hearing that.”

Cassidy also said Eales had a great memory.

“When I said I was from Hervey Bay he told he remembered coming to an awards night years ago for the then Hervey Bay Fighting Whiting Rugby Union Club,” he said.

“He even remembered the names of some of the players and officials he met.

“Now I thought that was very impressive.”

AWARD WINNERS • John Eales Medal: Matt Giteau • Australia's Choice - Wallaby of the Year: Benn Robinson • Joe French Award: Nick Farr-Jones • Rookie of the Year: James O'Connor • Try of the Year: Adam Ashley-Cooper • Women's Player of the Year: Debby Hodgkinson • Sevens Player of the Year - Shawn Mackay Award: Debby Hodgkinson • Volunteer of the Year: Steve Gann • Under 20s Player of the Year: James Slipper • Referee of the Year: Stuart Dickinson • The 2009 Hall of Fame inductees: Jon White, the late Dr Alec Ross and the late Tony Miller.

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