Ms JENNY AITCHISON (Maitland)—I pay tribute to former Maitland, Newcastle and NSW Country rugby union prop Jon Runchel who recently passed away, aged just 39, after a two-year battle with cancer. Jon made a significant and lasting impact on rugby union and the Maitland Blacks and our community.

I extend my deepest sympathies to Jon's wife Tara and their two children Jane and Axel, his extended family, his friends and the tight-knit Blacks community. 'Runchy', as he was known, grew up around Maitland and played 119 games for the Blacks. Impressively, all but nine of them were for the club's first 15. Jon played representative rugby for the Wildfires and the Cockatoos, and had stints with the Calgary Saints in Canada and the Las Vegas Blackjacks in the US.

Runchy was described by those who knew him as a no-nonsense leader who committed himself 100 per cent; a strong coach and a committed mentor. While COVID-19 limited the hundreds who would have liked to pay their respects to Jon and his family last Friday; on behalf of the thousands in our community who'll remember Jon for generations, I pay our respects.

Vale Jon.