THE late, great Len Bertoldo’s legacy will live on after he was confirmed as an “obvious” nominee for Griffith’s sporting Hall of Fame.
The Waratah Tigers great – considered one of the best rugby league players to have come out of the Riverina, if not the best – was yesterday revealed alongside Australian cricketers Alex and Kate Blackwell, motorcycling champion Peter Goddard and talented multi-sportsman Laurie Townsend as the latest names in line for the prestigious honour.
Bertoldo, who passed away last week after a long battle with dementia, was farewelled yesterday morning in an emotional service at the Sacred Heart Church.
A parade of rugby league legends including former Australian representative Ray Brown – who was one of the first nominees for the Hall of Fame, and was actually coached by Bertoldo back in his junior days – flew into Griffith for the funeral, which was followed by a wake at the Waratahs’ home ground, Exies Oval.
Bertoldo might be gone, but thanks to the Hall of Fame, he won’t soon be forgotten.
“Len should be one of the first blokes to go in,” said friend and long-serving Group 20 head of referees, Neville Hall.
“He’d be number one in the Riverina, without a doubt, let alone Griffith.
“Personally I think a lot of other people who played against him would rank him as one of the toughest and best front rowers.”
But Hall said Bertoldo should not just be nominated for his efforts on the playing field.
The NSW Origin representative was also a Waratahs committeeman and a passionate servant of junior rugby league.
“He coached the 16s and the 18s for numerous years and went through undefeated,” Hall said.
“He coached Ray Brown and he went on to play for Australia from the Waratahs.
“He looked after the first-grade for half a season but he was more interested in bringing up the young kids. That’s what he loved to do.
“He’d never go out and talk about himself – he’s not that type of person. But he should be in the Hall of Fame.
“They don’t make them like Lenny anymore.”
Jeff McKenna, who is driving the Hall of Fame initiative, said Bertoldo’s was one of the first names on the organising committee’s preliminary list.
“Our advice from other towns who had Halls of Fame was to create a list as a safeguard, to make sure nobody slips through, should some sporting body be a little remiss in not nominating someone who would obviously make it,” he said.
“Len was one of the very first names put forward and with his passing, it’s brought on a more emotional nomination now.
“He was a man’s man – quiet, but a real gentleman for such a hard head.”
The nominations of Bertoldo, Goddard, Townsend and the Blackwells come after Brown, Olympic swimmer Jenny Beer, squash champion Robyn Polkinghorne, off road racing figure Les Siviour and junior tennis star Daryl Henderson were given the nod last month.