Hornby worthy inheritor of Red V record, says Provan
Passing the torch … Norm Provan and Ben Hornby yesterday. Photo: Ken Robertson
ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA captain Ben Hornby will achieve arguably his most significant milestone for the club today when he surpasses a record dating back 46 years.
Not since Norm Provan's final game for St George in 1965 has a player managed to amass so many games for the Red V.
But in a 12-year career that has included a premiership, a World Club Challenge and a swag of representative titles, the 32-year-old successor insists he has only ever looked to the ''next game ahead''.
It was a mentality shared by one of the game's greats all the way through to his own retirement as a 35-year-old.
''Ben describes it perfectly - you just think about game after game,'' Provan said yesterday. ''You don't take the numbers into consideration at all. If you do, well, you're not going to get there. Just take every game at a time.
''When we won those premierships, we only thought about the next game. We weren't thinking about what we'd done, we were just thinking about the next game and how we could be looking after it.''
With a wry smile, Provan joked to Dragons players yesterday about hiring a hitman to prevent Hornby from breaking his record. But it was what ''Sticks'' didn't offer during his visit to training that his successor can take most pride in.
''On the drive down from Sydney to Wollongong, he told me, 'I couldn't think of a better bloke to break it. I'm just so glad that it's happening','' said Steve Edge, Provan's close mate.
''I was sitting there coming down with him to Wollongong and he was so nervous about meeting all the young kids. He was just chatting away when he mentioned it. I know that was something he didn't mention in his talk to the players.''
Pressed on whether he thought Hornby was the right man to assume his old mantle, Provan said: ''Of course he is. That question is answered by him being there for all those games. He'll set a new standard. I'm not pretending I know all about Ben and every one of his games, but I can tell you he'd be very, very proud of achieving the most number of games for the Saints.
''You just hope he can keep going. While ever he's needed and doing good things and backing up, he should be there.''
Edge, who watched Provan from the sidelines as a child before going onto win five premierships himself, saw many similarities between Hornby and his old idol.
''It's just a charisma, you've either got it or you haven't. The players respond to that,'' he said. ''You ask Norm how many premierships he's won and he won't tell you. He had an aura about him back then and he still does now. He walks into a room and everyone just turns around: young people, old people, whatever.''
Predictably, Hornby was reluctant to speak of himself as the Dragons longest-serving player yesterday, and was even content with the fact his record-breaking occasion would be slightly overshadowed by today's Anzac Day celebrations.
''It's a huge honour,'' Hornby said.