RELATIONSHIPS have always played a big part in John Forbes’ life — on and off the job.
Although he didn’t actually have a job, he had a lifestyle.
And without all the people he met along the way he wouldn’t have all the stories to tell that he does today.
Then there is his wife, Faye, who wouldn’t have found herself in so many mad rushes to pull a dinner together for ‘unexpected’ guests at short notice.
For John, who has had countless superstars visit his home for a meal, one still stands above the rest.
“One day I called Faye about 2 pm and said I had invited the Indian cricket team for dinner — she wasn’t very happy about the timing,” John said with a laugh.
“We had about 15 players come around. Soon enough, they had pulled the rubbish bins out and were playing a game in the street with the kids.
“I’ll never forget when one of the neighbours walked up to a young Sachin Tendulkar and told him he looked like him.
“When he realised it actually was Sachin, his jaw just dropped.”
The memory came flooding back recently when John and Rochester Sports Museum volunteers were cataloguing John's memorabilia collection during the COVID-19 lock-down.
During the search, John came across a photo he took with then Indian cricket captain Mohammad Azharuddin, about three decades ago.
“I forgot that I had the photo, it’s one that is very dear to me,” he said.
“Mohammad and I had a great relationship, he even invited me to his wedding. But it was an opportunity I had to knock back. It was going to go for three days and I didn’t have time.”
Ask John to pick his favourite cricketer, and the answer is easy.
“He was a fabulous cricketer and an even better person,” John said.
“You could go anywhere with Adam and he would be willing to have a conversation with anyone.
“The best part was he wanted to have Puma as his sponsor. There was a point where he didn’t have any sponsored gear but he still waited until the next season to sign with us so he could have our new stuff.
“It spoke a lot about the type of person he is.
“His gloves are one of my favourite parts of my collection.”
John's other favourite cricketer is Shane Warne.
John was the man who spotted him and insisted Puma take a chance on the leg spinner in the early 1990s.
“I said to my boss: ‘I’ve got this player who’s fat, drinks and smokes but he is the best spinner I’ve seen’,” he said.
While John has countless memories of his time with the world’s best athletes during his 24 years with Puma, perhaps the best comes from close to his hometown of Mitiamo.
One that immediately springs to mind is watching Sharelle McMahon grow into what John considered the best netballer in the world.
“I’ll never forget walking into the Australian Institute of Sport and seeing Johnny McMahon (Sharelle’s dad),” he recalled.
“We looked at each other as if we were going mad. I couldn’t believe a girl from a small country town was competing against the best players in Australia.
“It was a pleasure watching her development on and off the court.
“I would consider her to be the ideal sportsperson.”
Since retiring, John’s love of sport has not slowed.
He regularly contributed to the Loddon Valley League record and is an almanac of local sporting knowledge.
But if you asked him to start his career all over, it would be a very different story.
“Everything has changed so much, it’s a very different world,” John said.
“It would be very hard to maintain some of the personal relationships I did during my time with Puma.
“All the athletes now have managers and many of them always want a percentage of the fee.
“Back when I was working, you could just approach someone and sign them up.
“I think that was one of the most enjoyable parts of the job.”
For now, John is happy to share his love of sport with the community, through the Rochester Sports Museum.
And he hopes his memorabilia collection remains there for a long time.
“It got to a point where I was worried about where it would go,” he said.
“I’m glad it has been able to go to a good home.
“The volunteers do an amazing job and I’m thankful to them for helping me out.”
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