Max Whitehead, the original Chesty Bond man, captained the first Manly team 63 years ago. HE was Manly’s first skipper in 1947, a man who reached iconic status as the original Chesty Bond. Max Whitehead was certainly a legend in these parts, certainly a legend around Australia.
Whitehead, who skippered Manly in their introduction to first-grade rugby league 63 years ago, passed away on Friday morning at Mona Vale Hospital.
He was 87.
“He was a real man’s man,” good friend and Whitehead’s carer for the past seven years, Sid Barnes, said.
“He officially was an icon. That Chesty Bond profile, it was his, that’s literally the image of Max Whitehead.”
So was backing his beloved Sea Eagles.
Des Hasler’s men will dedicate their clash to the former ex-RAAF pilot, Manly lifeguard, pro wrestler and chicken sexer when they play the Newcastle Knights in Gosford on Saturday night.
Black armbands will be worn, with a minute’s silence observed before kick-off.
Long-time Manly official Peter Peters said Whitehead’s last wish was to have his ashes scattered over Brookvale Oval.
“The Sea Eagles were his family,” Peters said.
“He was always our guest at Brookie and we had already kitted him out with his 2010 tracksuit, polo shirt, anything to keep him warm at games. We’ll make sure there’s a jersey or something on his coffin.”
A fitting gesture for a man who led the Sea Eagles into battle in the club’s first premiership match with Western Suburbs at Brookvale Oval in March 1947.
Whitehead joined Manly as a second-rower from local rivals North Sydney. As a Bear, he was a member of their 1943 grand final team.
In his two seasons at Brookvale, Whitehead played 20 games for the maroon and whites, scoring four tries.
As a pro wrestler, fighting under the name “Max Steyne”, Whitehead travelled the world, and reportedly only lost to the famous Killer Kowalski.
But his rise to iconic status took shape long before all those adventures, as the barrel-chested, Chesty Bond. “I had a fairly decent physique,” he recalled in a 1998 interview of the time when Bonds selected him to promote their singlet.
In his final years, Whitehead was cared for at Drummond House, before moving to the War Veterans in Collaroy.
“I used to take him to every Manly home game, that was a highlight in his life,” War Vets nurse Sam Green, who cared for him the past three years, said.
Funeral arrangements have yet to be finalised.