Shane Norbert Nightingale
When Wallaby captain, Hall of Famer and renowned hard-man Tony Shaw made the claim that “he was one of the toughest and most uncompromising players I’ve played with” you can be sure Shane Nightingale was just that.
A powerful ruck and mauler with a big engine and a “bit more mongrel”, Nightingale also possessed subtle skills that helped him develop into a very good ball carrying lock. His potential was clearly recognised at a young age given that he earned selection ahead of future World Cup winning middle rower Steve Cutler in the unbeaten 1977-78 Australian Schoolboys tour.
Nightingale was also deeply imbued with rugby’s amateur spirit of playing for the pure enjoyment of the game, rather than for the money. He reserved a special place for those who played a representative game on a Saturday and then backed up for their club on Sunday.
Born in northern New South Wales, Nightingale’s early secondary schooling was undertaken at St. Gregory's College, Campbelltown before he moved to Brisbane and attended St Columban’s Christian Brothers. He played in both the 1st XI (1975-77) as well as the 1st XV (1975-77) and in his final year led the College to an undefeated season and its first ever T.A.S. rugby premiership. That success was crowned by Nightingale’s inclusion in the Australian Schools side, one that included 10 future Wallabies - the three Ella brothers, Michael Hawker, Chris Roche, Michael O’Connor, Tony Melrose, Tony D’Arcy, Dominic Vaughan and Nightingale, as well as rugby league immortal Wally Lewis.
After school Nightingale played in Brothers premiership winning U19(A) premiership winning side of 1978 and earned selection for the Queensland U19 side. The following year Nightingale made his first-grade debut, the first of 100 he played for the club during a wonderful period of success. Brothers won five consecutive Hospital Cup grand finals (1980-84) and were twice Australian club champions (1984-85).
In 1980 Nightingale made his state debut at No.8 in the 16-12 win over Thames Valley and won selection for Australia U21s however he then found himself in a ding-gong battle simply to hold his spot in the Reds due to the presence of Duncan Hall, Peter McLean and Tony Shaw.
Nightingale broke through in 1982 when he edged out Wallaby Peter McLean to partner Hall against a New Zealand XV (L 4-23) and then a World XV (W 38-24). His performance in those outings took on even greater significance just a few weeks later when nine Queenslanders made themselves unavailable, due to financial reasons, for the upcoming Wallaby tour to New Zealand. Coach Bob Dwyer, with far narrowed selection options, bit the bullet and chose 17 uncapped players in his 30-man squad, one of which was Nightingale.
If the big lock thought competition for places at Queensland was intense it only heightened on a Wallaby tour with Cutler, Hall, Steve Williams, Ross Reynolds and Parramatta’s Phil Clements all fighting for two Test spots. Nightingale made his debut for Australia in the opening fixture, the narrow 16-15 victory over Taranaki. The press wrote that the second rowers “Shane Nightingale and Steve Cutler emerged the best of the newcomers after a hesitant start. Nightingale showed outstanding potential with his driving play in the loose”. Unfortunately, Nightingale injured his knee and missed five matches, including the first Test. He was then shifted to No.8 against Buller and then Bay of Plenty, a move which undoubtedly hurt his chances at lock, especially after Duncan Hall fractured a bone at the base of his spine during the second Test. A twisted ankle at training didn’t help either and when the team for the final international was announced, Clements was preferred, ahead of both Nightingale and Cutler, for his Test debut. The season ended on a brighter note when he was awarded Brothers’ J.P. Gralton Memorial Trophy for "The player who displayed the most resilience".
In 1983 the spring-heeled David Hillhouse returned to the international fold to partner Williams before the Cutler and Williams combination helped the Eighth Wallabies to their historic grand slam in 1984. Two years later, and with Bill Campbell and Cutler the top lock pairing in the nation, Nightingale played his 100th and final first grade game at Brothers. In 1988, his last in top grade rugby, Nightingale -- out of the Burdekin Rugby Club -- proudly captained Queensland Country to their first win over Brisbane in a decade.
Nightingale started five matches on the Wallaby tour of New Zealand - vs. Taranaki (W 16-15), vs. Buller at Westport (W 65-0), vs. Waikato at Hamilton (W 2-3), vs. Bay of Plenty at Rotorua (L 16-40), and vs. Counties at Pukekohe (L 9-15)