29 June 2023

Payten award honours former Cooma rugby ace who shone for club and country

| Gail Eastaway
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man and woman on stage with jersey and award

Former Wallaby and Cooma rugby player, the late Peter Payten, was honoured by his son and daughter Peter and Kristi at the club’s 60th anniversary with the announcement of an award in his name. Photo: Gail Eastaway.

Cooma Rugby Union Football Club, the Red Devils, celebrated 60 years in Cooma on Saturday (24 June).

Part of the celebrations included an old boys’ day at Rotary Oval, watching junior games as well as the local derby between Cooma and the Jindabyne Bushpigs – which the Bushpigs won 50-12.

But the real celebrations happened at an anniversary dinner that night, which featured, among other rugby traditions, the announcement of a new award in honour of one of the club’s most memorable players, the Peter Payten Memorial Award for the most dedicated player.

The late Peter Payten was the club’s first Wallaby – a talented allround sportsman who just happened to excel at rugby.

READ ALSO Time to reflect on teamwork on and off the field as Cooma Rugby Club turns 60

Peter joined the game they play in heaven on 21 December, 2022 – his funeral service in Nimmitabel was a testament to his popularity.

He played rugby at St Joeys in Sydney before returning to Nimmitabel to work with his parents at the Tudor Inn.

He joined Cooma Rugby Club in 1968, aged 18.

He was immediately hooked and formed some of his greatest lifelong friendships while playing for Cooma.

He played and coached in Cooma for 15 years or so, notching up 100 or more games. He was a prolific goal kicker and with tries being only four points and penalty goals three, many a game was decided by the right-footed toe basher who could knock it over from 55 metres out, son Peter recalled.

He also recalled playing on the sidelines with his sister Kristi and other rugby kids while their fathers kept busy on the field.

But even more fascinating were the post-match activities, such as the boat races, still a drawcard of country rugby.

Peter Snr attracted a lot of attention from selectors.

He was a permanent fixture in the ACT and NSW Country representative sides from 1968 to 1976.

He played against New Zealand, South Africa, Argentina, France and Tonga, and toured throughout NSW, Queensland, Victoria and the Americas, with his most notable selection being for Australia against Fiji at Ballymore in 1969.

He even joined a NSW Country team tour of the Pacific, including Hawaii, San Francisco and the California coast. Unfortunately, a broken leg in Hawaii saw Peter confined to being the off-field tour captain leading the pre- and post-match functions.

On Saturday night, Peter Jnr and his sister Kristi were pleased to honour their father with the award in his name, Peter buying the special 60th-anniversary edition No. 15 jumper at auction.

In her presentation, Kristi said: “Cooma Rugby Club epitomises all that is great about country rugby.

“Its history, legacy and the individuals that have been engaged in this club, now and since inception, represent a community that we are all fortunate to know.

“Dad was not only a sportsman that thoroughly enjoyed this club and the opportunities it presented each weekend on the paddock, but it was also a club that embraced us as an entire family.

“The Paytens are synonymous with the Red Devils and as children we grew up in this club. Weekends spent at Rotary Oval or travelling with more people than seatbelts to regional destinations of like-minded clubs. Nights enjoyed watching boat races, bat skulls and naked drinking at the padded cell of the Monaro.

“We’ve remained connected to this club over many years and like Dad, have found our place in this rugby community.

“Tonight, I see many friends and families with long-standing connections to this club, which is testament to its lasting success. Dad loved this club, and his loss is significant to us, but to the club is only one of many foundational souls not here tonight.

“In 1980, our family presented the Cooma Rugby Club Anthony Payten award after tragically losing Kruey, aged 19.

”That award is presented each year to the most outstanding player still to this day.

“Forty-three years later, we find ourselves here again committing memories in recognition of honour.

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“The Peter Payten Memorial Award will be presented annually for dedication – turning up, working hard and always aspiring for more.

“Whilst Dad was a talented and gifted sportsman, some would suggest that his dedication was at times less related to prowess on the field, but more towards the shenanigans that would follow.

“That said, Dad was a true believer in the value of hard work, commitment and the dedication necessary to bring this together.

“We are honoured to present to you this award on behalf of our entire family.”

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