Game not the same without big Norm

BACK in the 1970s, when traditional cricket was challenged by Channel Nine's World Series, ABC radio produced a jingle with the words "the game is not the same without McGilvray", a salute to Alan McGilvray, the doyen of cricket commentators.

This week, rugby league should be using a similar line because one of the true icons of the game, Norm Provan, will be missing from all grand final celebrations for the first time in an age.

The great man, whose gladiator image with Arthur Summons sits atop the Telstra premiership trophy, is unable to make the trip south because of health issues.

And the myriad grand final festivities certainly won't be the same without the legendary ex-player and coach.

At tonight's Dally M awards, the Men of League gala ball, Kangaroos' reunion, grand final breakfast and the game itself, the massive frame of the Team of the Century second-rower will be missed by all, particularly those of us those who know, admire and love him.

Back in June, Norm suffered a blackout while walking his dog near his home at Golden Beach on the Sunshine Coast, fell and struck his head on a concrete path.

He was hospitalised for a number of weeks and although now back home, he is not as mobile as he would like.

His message to the rugby league public is that while he is not as spritely as he was once, he is on the mend.

And while he will miss not being part of the celebrations, he commits to being there in spirit.

For tonight's Dally M awards he has recorded a message for the winner of the prestigious Provan-Summons Award, as voted by the fans.

And demonstrating that his sense of humour and competitive spirit have not been affected by his fall, he has also recorded a missive for Summons, his former adversary but now great mate.

But while the rugby league public will surely note his absence during grand final week revelries, those who will miss him most will be his former St George teammates. In grand final week for the past eight years, the Dragons have celebrated the 50th anniversary of their phenomenal string of premierships. The first of their 11 successive crowns was won in 1956, and the initial golden anniversary was celebrated in 2006.

This year the 1964 premiers will be saluted, and that was the first grand final in which Norm played against his younger brother Peter.

Provan, who turns 83 in December, played in 10 of the 11 consecutive grand final wins for the Dragons, and was captain-coach in four. Missing this anniversary reunion, along with Reg Gasnier who passed away earlier in the year, will leave a void even bigger than the man himself.

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