THE STORY OF Anthony 'Ned' Kelly: Veteran and larrikin
THE scene is Phan Rang Vietnam circa 1970 in the heat of the Vietnam war and nothing was going to stop Anthony "Ned" Kelly playing his round of cricket.
Not even three missiles heading for the RAAF base he was stationed at.
His mates recalled Ned's antics at his wake after the veteran passed away last week aged 74.
"We thought it sounded like jets, but when they got closer we knew it wasn't bloody jets," laughed a fellow Vietnam veteran from Hervey Bay, life-long friend John Rutland.
"We got into trouble because everyone else ran to the bomb bunkers and we continued to play cricket."
The story, like the many others passed around at the Boat Club yesterday, sang true to the "larrikin's" wit, sense of humour and outgoing personality.
The Hervey Bay retiree was born in 1944 and grew up in Sydney.
Ned, affectionately nicknamed after his surname's namesake the infamous bushranger Ned Kelly, had a claim to fame of his own.
"He was the only footballer to have punched Dud Beattie and gotten away with it," Mr Rutland added.
"He almost died when we told him who he had actually hit at half time."
Dud Beattie was the Australian team's prop at the time.
During his 20 years in the Royal Australian Air Force, Ned was renown for his sporting prowess.
Ned played in the RAAF A Grade as a second rower along side the likes of Australian wing three-quarter back, Les Hanigan, in Wagga Wagga.
In 1970-71, Ned was sent to Vietnam as part of a squad of Canberra Bombers.
"Ned was a mad cricket fan obviously," another mate said.
"He would get leave and be on the way home to visit his mum when he dropped in to the Gabba watching a test match.
"After five days had passed watching the cricket he realised his leave was over and he had to head back to work.
"I don't think his mother saw him once for three years and it took him three months before she found out he was in Vietnam."
While Ned was serving in Malaysia he discovered a genius way of breaking the rules and sending his motorbike with him.
"He took it apart and then posted it to himself in little pieces under 'personal affects'," Mr Rutland said.
It was only after Ned was in an accident and the registration on the bike had to be checked, it came to light where the bike had come from.
"God thing he played golf with the chief of police."
Returning to Australia, Ned continued to serve on the HMAS Neptune stationed in Townsville doing maritime recognisance.
After some time spent sailing the east coast of Queensland, Ned landed in Mackay and met the love of his life.
Suzie Corby said she fell in love with Ned's humour and personality when they met in Walkerston seven years ago.
"It was everything about him, his wit, intelligence and his ability to tell stories.
"He had these gorgeous blue eyes."
Suzie explained Ned's reputation as a larrikin preceded him.
"Sometimes people wouldn't believe him when he was telling the truth because they were so gullible when he was joking," she said.
"Like when he was little he believed his name was Jesus.
"His mother would always say 'Jesus Christ get in here' or 'Jesus Christ don't do that'.
"They had a really good relationship those two."
Ned's RAAF buddies consider him family and after serving together over seas and in Townsville, they kept touch through the years.
"He gave me a call and a list of four houses, he told my wife to pick one," Mr Rutland said.
"So she did and he moved up to Hervey Bay without even seeing the house."
And so the couple moved to Hervey Bay.
"Even when he was sick with emphysema, he had a couple of times when he couldn't breath, and they brought him a panic button," Mr Rutland explained.
"They asked him to test it out in case of an emergency.
"So at 74 years old he fell on the floor wheezing and coughing.
"They told him 'not that you idiot, test the button'."