THE Balonne Shire has lost a legend. One who made many laugh, one who was a local footy stalwart, a bloke who was always ready to help those in need and one who will live on in the memories of a very large portion of the region's population.
William 'Billy' Bennett came to St George in the early 1950s. He was a keen rugby league player in school - a sport he was extremely passionate about - and was a devoted supporter of the Sydney StGeorge footy team.
It was while at St George State High School, and a member of the agriculture and garden clubs, that he earned his more well-known nickname.
The story goes that, during a garden lesson, his teacher Ian Dennis pointed to a shovel and told Billy, "That's your banjo and you should get to work playing it.”
From that day, Billy was known as 'Banjo'.
Banjo continued to indulge in his footy passion and in 1985, with coach Ronnie Waters, he managed the St George under-18s team, which won both the minor and major premierships.
He followed this the following year by managing the St George U19s team when, with John Robertson as coach, it won the minor premiership. He has been affiliated with the club ever since, holding various positions on the executive committee. Billy ultimately worked with Ron Waters for Sunwater for many years and was a very well- regarded member of that organisation. He also loved golf and was a member of the St George Golf Club for 20-odd years and club president for six years.
Golf club captain Trevor 'Trader' Hourn said he would remember Banjo as "a legend in his own right”.
Always community- minded, Banjo was a long-time member of the StGeorge Lions Club.
Fellow Lion Keith Codrington said Banjo was "a top fella.”
"He was always the first bloke with his hand up to help people in need. He was a great member of the community,” he said.
Billy also loved Aboriginal culture and languages and was one of the few who knew Kamillaroi lingo.
Sadly, Banjo Bennett was diagnosed with leukemia late last year and had been undergoing treatment until he finally succumbed to the disease last Sunday.
Having known Banjo since 2000, Balonne Shire Mayor Richard Marsh said he was a great guy and a great supporter of the community.
"He really will be missed and I'm very sorry to hear that he has passed,” CrMarsh said.
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