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23 November 2005

David DonneyA die-hard St George supporter is proudly flying the Dragons colours across troubled Iraq. Longtime Club member David Donney proudly sports Saints paraphernalia during eight-week stints as an administrator in the north of the troubled Middle Eastern state.

He has adopted the famous red-and-white finery as a good luck charm amid the constant dangers of working for an American reconstruction contractor.

"My father taking me to Kogarah is my earliest memory," Mr Donney told The Journal from a security compound in Kirkuk, far from the waft of meat pies and striking blue of Botany Bay. "Also, one day at Henson Park in the mid-1960s, Barry Beath scored a try which I can vividly remember."

Mortar and machine gun ambushes, together with the constant threat of attack, have taken the tedium out of traffic lights and beer queues for the former Allawah boy.

"We have been mortared a few times in Baghdad, so we spend the night in a bunker," the 45-year-old said, flippantly. "Mostly you are apprehensive when driving around due to car bombs - it does take some time to get used to."

The skies above Iraq are just as dangerous. "We fly everywhere by the United States Air Force," he said. "We are flying in C130 Hercules, which you can't see out of and have to use evasive maneuvers, especially when coming into Baghdad. "Suddenly you will drop 300 feet and the aircraft starts rolling."

David Donney in Iraq

Mr Donney said he's not worried about the prospect of being taken hostage.

"Well, I seriously don't want it to happen, but the way our security and procedures are set up, it would take an SAS-style snatch to do it," he said.

"Also, I would have to ask them if they had Star Sports or The ABC, so I could watch the footy."

Leagues Club employee Gary Husband met Mr Donney 25 years ago at the Allawah Hotel and together they became notorious for haranguing fans of teams visiting Kogarah.

"We hated the opposition fans," Mr Husband admits. "Between David and myself there used to be plenty of friendly banter amongst the opponents.

"David was very intense when he was watching the games - full of emotion."

A jet-set member of the Lord Ted Goodwin Fan Club, Mr Donney has encountered natural disasters such as the 1991 eruption of Mt Pinatubo in the Philippines and man-made tragedies such as Iraq.

"He has always been a generally crazy character," Mr Husband remarked of his mate's penchant for volatile environments.

Mr Donney said the Club's logo has raised a few eyebrows throughout Iraq where many mosques are adorned with similar motifs deriving from the Crusades period.

"A couple of our local employees said that, 'In one of the mosques in town, there was an ancient mural with the St George logo displayed'," he said.

The Sumerian civilisation of ancient Mesopotamia (Iraq) revered the Dragon for guarding treasures, holding back floods and distributing knowledge.

Mr Donney is upholding their traditions via the information super highway.

"In Iraq, despite having a satellite system, there is no ABC available here, so I get the majority of news on the lap-top via websites," he explained.

While away from Iraq, Mr Donney welcomes Saints fans with open arms to his bar in the Philippines called Barhoppin.

"His bar is all decked out in Saints colours," Mr Husband said. "He loves a drink and he loves a beer."

But woe beholds Aussies who arrive empty handed. "Although a lot of people from Sydney who support the Dragons get over there, they know better than to turn up at a barbeque at my place without a poster, stubby holder or any other item from the Dragons shop," he said.

Mr Donney told The Journal that age-old tribal and religious conflicts are likely to plunge Iraq into greater turmoil.

"As usual each side is right," he said referring to the overwhelming divisions between tribes and Shia and Sunni Muslims. "Not so much a civil war but a sectarian war may break out."



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