20 YEARS OF DRIVING INJURED ATHLETES TO SAFETY
FOR most of the past 20 years, John Wilson is the man who has been entrusted with the job of bringing seriously injured athletes safely from the field of play at ANZ Stadium.
He’s the designated Medicab driver who has had a sideline view of the action at the majority of events since the Stadium’s opening in 1999.
He is also probably the only valued staff member who senior management would prefer has nothing to do when he turns up for work.
“When I don’t have a lot to do when I’m at work we’ve had a good night, because it means no one has been badly injured,” says John.
A former vehicle inspector for the NRMA for 33 years before his retirement in 2003, John joined the Stadium as a casual employee prior to its opening and was a member of the customer service team for the first event, the NRL Double-Header, in March 1999.
But he soon was appointed to the job of Medicab driver, a role he was a natural for given his love of watching sport and especially rugby league. Not to mention keen eye for keeping important vehicles in good shape.
“The key to my job is that you need to watch the play at all times, which suits me find as I love sport and I especially love watching rugby league,” John said.
A lifetime Parramatta Eels supporter, John has had a ground-level view of every NRL Grand Final since the Storm won the historic first decider at the Stadium in 1999.
And he reckons the best he has seen was the all-Queensland Grand Final of 2015.
“I rate the Cowboys winning the Grand Final in 2015 in extra time, with the great Johnathan Thurston at his peak, the best game of rugby league I have ever seen,” John said.
“Of course, that first event at the Stadium, when 104,583 fans packed in for the NRL Double-Header, was an event that everyone who was there that day will remember for the rest of their lives.”
While he has been called in to action on numerous occasions over 20 years, only once has it happened in a Grand Final . . . when Cowboys star Sean Fensom badly broke his leg in the opening minutes in 2015.
Born and bred in Baulkham Hills and still living in the same north-west Sydney suburb to this day with his wife Helen, John has just celebrated his 80th birthday . . . and yet he still manages to play golf three times a week.
The couple have two children, Ian and Karen, and four grand-daughters, Taylor, 15, Cameron, 10, Alexa, 17, and Jorja, 15 – all of whom have heard their grandad’s great tales of 20 years of sporting drama at the Stadium.
- Sydney’s Olympic Stadium is turning 20 early next year. This is the second in a series of stories on the Stadium, its people, the famous events, and the fans who have brought the colour, energy and excitement over two decades of sport and entertainment.