AS WITH his older brother Gary and most members of the clan, Neil Honey’s name has been habitually linked with athletics . . . and, until two Fridays ago, the Collingwood Football Club.
The Honey kindred connections with the black and whites can be sourced to Neil’s grandfather, a Northcote resident in the old days. Why Pop Honey barracked for the black and whites is anyone’s guess, but as Neil readily conceded: “There’s no-one in my immediate family – brothers, sisters, everyone – who doesn’t barrack for Collingwood”.
And yet Neil, the nation’s 1986 Commonwealth Games Bronze Medallist in the pole vault, was sold on Carlton as his son’s best option from the time its recruiters first identified Josh as a prospective rookie.
“Josh caught up with Carlton about three or four days before the draft. They (the recruiters) told him that even though they had four picks ‘we’re only using three and taking a rookie’. They made that quite clear,” Honey said.
“On the Thursday (day two of the draft), after Carlton called its third pick (Sam Ramsay) then passed (in the fourth round), we knew that Essendon and West Coast were the others sniffing around - and he’d seen Essendon the day before the draft - but they also passed.
“That night Josh’s manager called him to say ‘I’ve been on the phone to a few people. It’s looking reasonably positive – just go to bed and we’ll speak in the morning’. On the Friday morning, Carlton called Josh’s name with its first pick of the rookie draft . . . and the manager later told me that Carlton committed on the Thursday night, but didn’t want to declare it in case of any unforeseen issue.”
That the cards fell Josh’s way was truly Christmas-come-early for Neil and his wife Di, a former Australian Diamonds netball representative.
“We always wanted him to go to Carlton, because Carlton is on the up, it’s a big club, it’s a good club and it’s close to home . . . and it’s not too often you get your wish,” Neil said.
“After Josh trained last Friday afternoon (November 29) we followed him into the club for the first time thinking we’d end up standing in the corner. Far from it. The recruiters, the players and the staff all introduced themselves to us and they showed us around. David Teague then joined Josh and the other rookie (Fraser Phillips) for dinner, and Sam Walsh and Paddy Dow sat on the same table.”
As an added bonus, Neil, who is a former student of Parade College (and later Keon Park Tech from Year 11), also made acquaintance with a fellow Old Paradian Stephen Philp - whose son Sam was taken in the national draft about 38 hours earlier by the Carlton recruiting team headed by the outgoing List Manager Stephen Silvagni, son of another former Parade student Sergio.
When asked if he’d shared first-hand knowledge from his years as an elite athlete with Josh, whose reputation at Western Jets was forged as a high half-forward pushing into the midfield, Neil conceded nothing more than the “work hard, play as you train” ethos.
As he said: “In terms of the technical side I haven’t gone hard because I’m no expert – and I learned that pretty quickly myself”.
That said, Neil has been a keen observer of the on-field progress of his son, and offered the following critique.
“He’s strong and powerful, and he’ really quick off the mark and he likes a goal,” Neil said.
“He took a while for him to find his feet after they (Western Jets) put him into the middle this year and when he starts off with the Northern Blues he’ll be down in the forward line I’d imagine.”