Newspaper article The Chronicle (Toowoomba, Australia)

RL Family Spreads Protective Wings

Newspaper article The Chronicle (Toowoomba, Australia)

RL Family Spreads Protective Wings

Article excerpt

WHEN former Australian rugby league team captain Ron Coote visited his sister in hospital and found former international Doug McRitchie laid up in bed in the same hospital, something tweaked.

Rugby league prided itself on being a "family" yet Mr Coote noticed Mr McRitchie had few visitors, particularly for someone who had represented his country and the sport so well.

It was out of that experience in 2002 that the Men of League Foundation was born.

Ten years later and the foundation has almost 25,000 members dedicated to helping those associated with the sport - men, women and families - who have fallen on hard times, whether through health or any other circumstance.

The Toowoomba-based Southern Division branch of Men of League kicked off in 2009 with local rugby league identities Neale O'Brien, Peter Rookas, Bill Pollard, Karen Tuit and Jodie Teys at the helm.

Though still in its infancy, the local branch has grown in membership to about 500 - including such local rugby league luminaries as John McDonald, Darren Lockyer, John Barrett, Greg Platz, Rohan Hancock, Peter Connell, Ray Higgs, Charlie Frith, Terry Cook, Jason Smith and Shane Webcke - and already enjoys an impressive list of achievements.

Whether it's just offering moral support to someone doing it tough or by more tangible means in obtaining medical equipment and services for those in need, the Men of League has proved invaluable.

"We helped (local rugby league identity) Trevor Sprott in his quest to lose weight," said Andrew O'Brien who has since taken over the reins of the organisation from his twin brother Neale.

"Trevor's lost many kilos and we continue to keep an eye on him.

"We also raised funds for a family who lost their mother in a car accident which also involved the woman's husband and three little children.

"We helped a family's transition for their father to enter a home and paid the difference on the entrance fee and provided security screens and a bathroom shower with disability reconfiguration. …

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