Versatile Berne a man of two codes

Versatile Berne a man of two codes

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A SPORTING BUNCH – Jack, Mick, John and Shaun Berne.

A SPORTING BUNCH – Jack, Mick, John and Shaun Berne.


John Berne was a talented attacking centre who was successful in both rugby league and rugby union. Born in County Antrim, Northern Ireland, in 1954, John migrated to Australia with his family when he was seven.


JOHN Berne was a talented attacking centre who was successful in both rugby league and rugby union. Born in County Antrim, Northern Ireland, in 1954, John migrated to Australia with his family when he was seven.

Living in the inner Sydney city suburb of Botany, he began playing football at Pagewood Marist Brothers. He quickly established himself as one of South Sydney’s best young players and represented the Rabbitohs at SG Ball and Jersey Flegg levels.

He was graded by Souths in 1972 and played five third-grade games, followed by five reserve grade matches, as an 18-year-old amateur.

The next year he was persuaded to join the Randwick rugby union club. In three seasons with the Galloping Greens, he played 41 top-grade games, as well as being a member of the 1973 and 1974 premiership-winning first-grade teams. John played five-eighth with Alan Sing at halfback in both grand finals.

At the end of the 1973 season, he won the best and fairest Randwick player award.

To celebrate their premiership success, Randwick made an end-of-season tour to England, Wales, Italy and Singapore in 1973. John was a member of this 36-man side.

They played some of the strongest teams in Europe including Sale, Richmond, Llanelli and Milan, winning nine of their 13 matches.

The NSW selectors were quick to realise John’s talents and chose him for the NSWRU Centenary in May 1974. He played three other games for NSW, two against Queensland and one in New Zealand, in which he bagged two tries in the win.

At the end of the 1975 season, he was selected in the sixth Wallabies team for their 26-match tour of Britain, Ireland and the US. He made his Test debut in the first Test against Scotland.

The hosts won 10-3 and after he was kicked in the ribs by a Scottish forward while he was on the ground in the second half, John had to be replaced and did not play another match on tour. Soon after returning home, John was offered a good contract to play league with Souths.

In four seasons with the Rabbitohs from 1976, he played 73 first-grade matches. In 1980, he signed with the Roosters but only stayed for a year before moving to Cronulla for three seasons, playing 26 matches in the top grade.

At the end of the 1983 season, he decided to retire but was lured by Roosters coach Arthur Beetson to have a year with his club in 1985. John’s final top grade game was at the Sports Ground in May that year. In nine seasons of first-grade league, he played 121 games.

In his playing days, John worked at TNT but in the mid-1990s, he set up his own company, Jackaroo Cleaning Supplies, which he runs with younger son Michael. Older son Shaun, while never playing a rugby union Test, got close to doing so.

He played five matches for Australia A, two for the Australian under-21s, one with the Barbarians and 46 for NSW, including 38 appearances in the tough Super Rugby competition.

Shaun made the headlines when at the Sydney Football Stadium in 2003, he landed a 50-metre last-minute penalty to give the Waratahs a tight 34-31 win over a powerful Crusaders team including several All Blacks.

The Waratahs regular kickers of that season, Matt Burke and Mat Rogers, missed the game with injuries, so Shaun was under plenty of pressure as he lined up the vital kick. During his career, the clever five-eighth or centre played 63 first-grade games with Randwick, scoring 403 points. He captained Randwick to their grand final in 2004 and won the club’s best and fairest player award that season.

During the Australian summer, Shaun played in Europe. From 1999-2006, he played 122 games and scored 185 points with Bath, then moved to Leinster in Ireland, where he played 19 games, scoring 55 points. He finished up at the end of the 2011-12 northern season with Italian club Calvisano.

Married to an English girl, Shaun, 37, lives in Dublin, where he works on the Leinster coaching staff. Younger brother Michael, now 34, also played with Leinster for a few seasons from 2005.

A centre like his dad, he played 57 matches in four seasons with Randwick, including 21 in the top grade.

Before joining Randwick he had three seasons playing league with Souths.