Barry Ross

Barry Ross

Nothing was too much trouble for Barry Ross when it came to helping a friend in need or contributing to sporting good causes.

He held a special place in his heart for rugby league, and had a legion of friends from the code because of his willingness to help out and to be involved, whether at an official level or in the background.

Barry contributed countless articles to the Family of League Magazine over many years, and was involved in a host of welfare activities associated with the Foundation. In recent years, for instance, he gave his time to assist former Test halfback, Steve ‘Turvey’ Mortimer, who is battling ill-health.

A product of Wollongong High, Barry played under-18s in Wollongong with future Immortal, Graeme Langlands. Barry continued playing league in the seniors, in the Parramatta District, and also played first grade cricket. He became a teacher, and the expertise he gained from that profession, plus his love and knowledge of sport, helped him land a job as television commentator: Rex Mossop’s right hand man for match broadcasts… with the duo covering 30 Grand Finals, a host of inter-state games and tests. Barry covered the 1978 and 1982 Kangaroo tours of Britain and France, and also accompanied Rex to the Olympic Games.

When the Broncos burst on the scene in 1988, Barry became their Sydney stats man. In 1990, he even drove Broncos’ legend, Wally Lewis, to Sutherland Hospital after Wally broke his arm playing against St George.

The affection Barry had for the game is illustrated by the fact he took it on himself to show French players around the Sutherland Shire in 1981, when he sensed the touring side was not being looked after by the League administration of the time.

Manly players, Englishman, John Gray, and dashing winger, Tom Mooney, were best man and groomsman respectively on Barry’s wedding day.

One of the stories Barry wrote for the magazine was the result of a reunion he arranged between Englishman, Bob Blackwood, and legendary Australian Test forward, Bob McCarthy, who had been combatants on the 1973 Kangaroo tour. They had not seen each other since that tour, and Barry got them together during Blackwood’s visit to Australia in 2019.

Barry, a keen historian, wrote several books on a variety of topics. One that he took great pride in was detailing the history of the Gerringong Rugby League Club on the South Coast of New South Wales.

A noted public speaker and MC, he was always in demand and had friends across all sporting codes… especially rugby league and rugby union.

He and Susan had been married for 47 wonderful years and were blessed with sons David and Nathan. It goes without saying, he loved to watch his grandchildren play sport.

A wonderful life fulfilled, but taken from us too soon. We will always remember Barry… especially for his very amusing sayings.


August Monthly Wellbeing Activities

August… traditionally a time of bitter, cold and depressing winds. However, we kick off this month with a positive story of how this resilient 49-year-old single mother’s experience is a testament to the positive impact the Family of League has in our community. She has endured unimaginable challenges, including homelessness and extreme domestic violence, all while caring for her children. These hardships could have easily overwhelmed her, but with the support of the Family of League, she found a lifeline – socially, emotionally, and financially.

In recent months, her life has taken a remarkable turn. She made the courageous decision to enrol in a Certificate IV in Community Services through TAFE, a step towards securing stability and financial independence for her family’s future. Her youngest son is on the cusp of high school and faces a significant hurdle. Without access to a home computer, he is struggling to complete his schoolwork, a vital component of his education.

Recognising the importance of education, the Family of League stepped in to provide invaluable support. They offered assistance in the form of food vouchers to ease the family’s immediate needs. Additionally, they provided a new iPad. This device not only allows the mother to complete her coursework but also empowers her son to excel in his studies as he transitions into high school.

The story of this family is a powerful reminder of how community support can lift individuals and families out of the darkest of circumstances. Through the kindness of the Family of League, they are now on a path towards a brighter, more promising future, filled with hope, stability, and opportunity.

On-field assistance from Family of League

Imagine playing the game you love with your young family on the sideline cheering you on, this is how the game started for this 25-year-old father. Unfortunately, his day took a turn for the worse when his elbow was dislocated during the game.

Fortunately, luck was on his side as one of our dedicated volunteer Wellbeing Officers was present at the field. With a swift response, they organized an Immediate Action Grant to help alleviate the financial burden that came with his inability to work during his recovery. The Family of League stepped in with food and fuel vouchers, offering essential support to assist with his general living expenses.

This heart-warming story is not an isolated incident. In fact, this month alone, the Family of League has been a beacon of hope for at least five grassroots players facing similar challenges. These instances remind us of the power of community and the incredible impact that organisations like the Family of League can have on the lives of those who are passionate about their sport and dedicated to their families.

When inside the home is more dangerous than outside

Imagine having to pack up your entire life and move to a new, unfamiliar place. No savings, minimal property and lots of unknowns. This move isn’t the first time you’ve needed to ‘start over.’ In fact, it’s not even the second, but instead the third time you’ve had to make this life impacting change. Moving with you are your three young children… so yet again they are ‘uprooted’ from all that is familiar to them, their school, their friends and their local footy club. Now imagine that you are making this move on your own as the domestic and family violence that you and your children are experiencing means that you are no longer safe to live under the same roof.

This is the very challenging reality currently facing a family that our Melbourne Committee has been working closely with for almost a year now. The Foundation has provided emotional, physical, and financial support through two of their moves by not only assisting them to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table while everything around them was in turmoil but to also be there for coffee catch ups and supportive phone check ins as needed.

To allow this family to begin to create some new happy memories, they recently had the opportunity to attend the Melbourne Storm Captains run prior to their game against the Gold Coast Titans… entering the hallowed ground of AAMI Park to welcome the teams to the field. The smiles on their faces said it all – today is a good day and we are grateful for the chance to be reminded that thanks to the Rugby League Community we all love and cherish being a part of – we are not alone.

SupportingParental turmoil

A cancer diagnosis is undoubtedly one of the most life-altering and distressing events a family can experience. It creates a ripple effect of emotional and practical challenges that impact not only the patient but their entire support network.

Imagine the shock and heartache of receiving the news that your vibrant 17-year-old daughter, who loves football and has her whole life ahead of her, has been diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. In an instant, her world is turned upside down. She faces the harsh reality of being seriously ill, enduring the physical toll of chemotherapy and coping with the devastating loss of her hair. The activities she once enjoyed, like playing football and spending time with friends, become distant dreams as she grapples with the unpleasant side effects of treatment.

For parents, this journey is equally distressing. Witnessing their child’s illness takes an emotional toll that is impossible to fully describe. The constant hospital visits, the financial burden of medical expenses, and the challenges of balancing work and caregiving all contribute to an overwhelming sense of helplessness and stress.

In the midst of this turmoil, the Family of League offers a beacon of hope and support. Their willingness to step in during a family’s darkest hours, both emotionally and financially, provides a lifeline when it is needed most. By offering practical assistance, such as fuel vouchers, they alleviate some of the logistical challenges that families face during this difficult time.

In essence, the support provided by the Family of League extends far beyond the tangible. It offers solace, strength, and a sense of belonging to families grappling with the ‘new normal’ brought about by a cancer diagnosis. It shows that even in the darkest of times, acts of kindness and compassion can light the way forward.

How Family of League assisted rugby league families in July 2023

July Monthly Wellbeing Activities

The first month of the financial year was another testing time for some of our rugby league family dealing with health as well as finance issues. For example, we worked in conjunction with one of our sport’s well known wellbeing organisations; a team with experience spanning a wide spectrum of health issues, especially crisis support. Through them, we were able to support a 13-year-old female Western Sydney Rugby League player. This teenager has suffered extensive trauma from an incident she witnessed at school. Thanks to a referral from her counsellor to one of our wellbeing officers, the Family of League has been able to support/provide counselling to this young lady, allowing her to move forward from this event.

A tiger dealing with the jungle

A legend of the game was recently referred to the Family of League due to his current unfortunate circumstances. This well-known proud Indigenous man was a legend of the game through the 1970s/80s. He played professionally for both Balmain and Canberra Raiders, even representing NSW Country against a touring Great Britain side. After retirement from the game, he was a coach and a prominent Indigenous worker within the NSW Rugby League community.

The later years of his life have brought about many permanent medical conditions, requiring hospitalisation for around 18 months. Exiting hospital, he has found himself in an overwhelming position of a marriage breakdown and no permanent home.

Our wellbeing officer has worked alongside him to ensure he has the finances to keep all his personal possessions as well as someone to discuss his many confronting issues. A caring ear that not only provides support through this transition… but also reflect and reminisce with this gentleman about his wonderful rugby league experiences.

A case of two hands doing the work of many

If you’re a wise man, you’ll never argue against that famous saying: ‘Behind every good bloke, there’s always an exceptional woman (or similar). A saying that sums up this couple. Known as a formidable pair in rugby league circles… with a passion for youth clinics, pathways and development in regional NSW. He was a proud Indigenous man who worked as a regional Indigenous development officer; his passionate wife worked tirelessly behind the scenes to support her husband and the rugby league community. She was his partner in crime and a jack-of-all-trades. A mother to two children with six grandchildren, while also acting as a rugby administrator, financial controller, plus den-mother on four international tours.

Sadly, in 2019 her husband passed away from cancer. She has since struggled with not only losing her best friend but also dealing with the emotional, social and financial hardships of being on her own.

Family of League is embracing her passionate commitment to our beloved sport, and supporting her journey back to good health and prosperity. We have been able to assist her with getting her kitchen renovations completed and covering her home insurance for the next year.

A case very close to home

One of our own wellbeing officers required support from the Family of League. Well known in his rugby league community, he has been part of the Men of League, then Family of League community from the beginning, 21 years ago. 

Having incurred multiple shoulder surgeries over the past few years, the hope is his most recent operation will sort out persistent health issues. Enduring a journey of approx 150 km each way to surgery, he was hoping to leave hospital after 3 to 5 days and head back home. Unfortunately, due to several reasons, his recovery has taken longer than anticipated as he spends his fourth week in the ward. 

Family of League was able to support, with a visit over a coffee and a warm chat… as well as financial assistance to cover his wife’s travel cost when visiting him. We wish this gentleman a healthy recovery for here, as well as our other wellbeing recipients previously mentioned… plus the multitude we also cared for this month. Stay healthy and happy, everyone! 

Peter Affleck appointed Non-Executive Director of the Family of League Board

Peter Affleck appointed Non-Executive Director of the Family of League Board

The Chair of the Family of League Foundation Helen Wood Grant today announced the appointment of Peter Affleck to the position of Non-Executive Director of rugby league’s charity of choice, Family of League, effective immediately. 

Peter has enjoyed a long association with rugby league both as a player and coach in Queensland and also through his commitment to Family of League. He was selected in South West Queensland’s 1978 representative team from outback Quilpie and spent the late 70s and early 80s playing for the Fortitude Valley Diehards Club in the Brisbane Rugby League pre-Broncos era. He then coached Beenleigh to a Grand Final in the strong Gold Coast competition in 1988. Peter continues to be heavily involved with Valley’s Old Boys association and has been honoured under the Diehards ‘True Blue’ banner for his contributions to the Club.

Chair of Family of League, Helen Wood Grant, said “Peter’s contribution to the Foundation has been notable since first being part of our Brisbane Committee some years ago prior to his establishment of the Moreton Committee. I am delighted to welcome him to the Board and look forward to all he will no doubt contribute.  The Moreton Committee is a forward-looking and successful one, with Peter’s Committee colleagues loud in their praise for the time, management expertise, integrity and inspiration he brings to their team. My fellow directors and I look forward to benefiting from those attributes and his impressive professional pedigree.”

The Directorship is a continuation of Peter’s strategic and leadership contribution to the Foundation. In 2018 he was the founding President of the Moreton Committee. He remains in that role and has led his Committee to ever increasing success in fundraising and community outreach. He was invited in 2022 to be an external member of the Board’s National Wellbeing Committee which provides advice to the Board on a range of matters including financial grants and provides support to Family of League Wellbeing Executives and to Committee Wellbeing Officers.

A few weeks ago Peter was announced as the recipient of the prestigious 2023 Queensland Steve Calder Volunteer of the Year award, in recognition of his tireless work in the Moreton area and beyond.

Peter’s professional capabilities developed during his impressive corporate career bring expertise and knowledge to the Board across workplace accommodation, finance, governance, communications, relationship-building and change management. His understanding of the opportunities and challenges the valued volunteers at the heart of Family of League face through his role as Committee President brings another lens through which Board decisions can be viewed. He is a graduate member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

“It is with great pleasure that I accept this role. I will continue to do all I can to contribute insight and direction to Family of League Foundation, now as a Board member. The extraordinary work Family of League does across the rugby league community is life-changing. I have seen at the coalface how much the financial, emotional or social care we deliver gives individuals, their families and indeed communities hope. I look forward to collaborating with my fellow Directors under the leadership of the Chair and to being part of the Foundation’s evolution.“

Caring for someone doing it tough, with support from the Family of League

June Monthly Wellbeing Activities

North of Sydney

In an area a few hours north of Sydney, there’s a family facing the horror of horrors. Dad, the guiding light of the family, has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. What’s more, he has been diagnosed with metastatic carcinoma, with associated spinal cord compression and paraplegia… meaning a loss of power and sensation from the chest down as well as significant back pain. He has a urinary catheter and limited bed mobility. Mum, his and the family’s magnificent supporter, is endlessly running around keeping the family together while coping and preparing for her beloved’s sadly inevitable passing. 

This outstanding lady and her much-loved hubby have previously been involved in their local rugby league club as team manager, club treasure and more… whatever it takes to make the club perform. Not only is this family’s life shattered, compounding their ever-present emotional pressure, financial sledge hammers are crushing the minutes of every day. Looking at ceilings each night while trying to grab much-needed sleep, this family are desperate to survive and make some kind of future.

Through rugby league connections, Family of League have been invited to assist this family. Our community-based committee members are there doing what we can, financially and emotionally.

West of Brizzie

Having run around league paddocks throughout the 90s, then assisting the game as a junior coach as well as a variety of administration roles, plus running footy clinics, this now middle-aged single mum is faced with a truckload of financial pressure.

Having split from her hubby after 20+ years, she looks after her 4 kids while living with an ailing mum. Compounding a miserable situation, this over-pressured mother is desperate for dental assistance while her car also has health issues. One of her sons is at a critical stage at school and doesn’t have a home computer to assist with his studies. Summing up, the family has no way to pay for ongoing school costs let alone put their vehicle back on the road. 

Our Foundation is supporting this family up and bringing relief, however we can.

South of Brisbane

Having made a significant contribution to rugby league by playing for over 25 years (from junior right up to state representation), this now late 60s gentleman requires assistance with his accommodation. Not only did he have a high-profile career, even playing with Artie Beetson, he excelled for many years as a teacher.

Having concerned his wife with severe bouts of forgetfulness, frustration and temperament irregularities, he has now been diagnosed with dementia. Health issues have also affected his wife, who is suffering depression and anxiety issues.

While dealing with delays due to  confronting medical issues, their accommodation has also been deteriorating with recent roof repairs delayed due to a major issue with asbestos. And a cold winter has certainly made its presence known to this couple.

Again, Family of League are there to sort out the situation and fund a more comfortable life.

North West of the Sunshine Coast

Here’s another fellow who has played over 20 years in community footy. Now a tradie, a serious injury has resulted in many months off work… which has taken a large bite out of his and his partner’s finances.

So much so, they had to move back home into her parent’s home. However, there are growing financial pressures as they require a paid storage facility for their possessions, and he is still not healthy enough to return to work.

There is also a substantial amount of other wellbeing applicants we have been dealing with this month, up and down the East Coast of Australia. They, like all the above, are being provided comforting support as we work out a solution to their issues. Along the way we call, pop in, have coffee and spend time with these folk. Reminding them they are not alone with their problems. As they gave to rugby league on and off the field, we return the support to them… with thanks!

May Monthly Wellbeing Activities

As a young bloke, this massive footy fan played for an inner Sydney RSL JRLFC from under 6s right up until turning 18, and then helped out by volunteering for his club as a ball boy and general helper. Now a baby boomer, last December, in fact it was Christmas Day, his life was shattered when admitted to hospital following a heart attack and kidney failure.

After having three stents inserted into his heart, he now requires dialysis three times weekly to deal with his kidney issues.

Plus, the doctors are now talking about diabetes and, one would easily understand, he is also dealing with depression… requiring further support.

The poor fellow has no wife or loved one. He has no dependants to offer support. However, Family of League are there.


Up in Queensland, a strapping fellow who had played junior grade in Samoa and then in Oz from 2015 until recently for a few Brizzie teams, has incurred an ankle issue. Fortunately, this injury occurred on the field while defending his opponents getting the pill over his team’s line, therefore an insurance claim has been submitted. Unfortunately, a payout will take many months.

Tasked with looking after his wife and four children, two of which play Brisbane juniors, he and his family are doing it tough paying bills. Especially as no work means no income, and with a big family… bills get big very fast. Family of League are there to bridge the gap.

Another Queenslander, another ankle

Ankle injuries seem to be filling our hospitals lately. This late 20s fellow busted his ankle playing for his local team in Southern Queensland. Having played from under 14s and up, in April he presented to the local hospital to be told he has a Weber C fracture of his left fibula and acute disruption of ankle syndesmosis.

As a casual worker, he has no income while recuperating. Yes, there’s insurance. No, he won’t get anything for three months at the earliest… which is the amount of time required to heal. Family of League are assisting during this time.

How the smallest of things can make the biggest impact

Divorced and without dependants, this mid 60s gentleman has an extensive history with rugby league U9s to U14s across many Sydney Western Suburbs as well as the NSW Police ­– even multi touring New Zealand with the Police team.

Last year, while travelling overseas, he cut his toe and thought nothing of it. Back home, he was rushed to hospital wavering in and out of consciousness for between 6 to 10 days.

When he finally woke, to his shock he discovered both his legs had been removed… to save his life. He had been infected by a flesh-eating bug. These infections also caused damage to his heart, kidneys and lungs; however, these complications have been managed with medication and rehabilitation since the amputations were undertaken.

While NDIS support assists, without both legs, he is finding it quite stressful to be mobile especially around his residence where distance to essential services is quite a challenge.

Family of League has provided a new mobility scooter to greatly enhance his lifestyle.

As previously mentioned in other wellbeing articles, the above is only a fraction of the activities we have been providing this month to people doing it tough in our rugby league family. We look forward to bringing you more wellbeing stories after the conclusion of this month.

Nelson Bay Golf Club hosts the 14th annual Family of League Foundation Charity Golf Day

Organised by the Port Stephens Committee, and Kicking off on Saturday night with a Sportsmen’s dinner attended by 160 appreciative attendees, the night was highlighted by a wonderful array of speakers, gag deliveries and entertaining anecdotes.

Committee President Bill Gainsford welcomed all attending the Family of League dinner, before tossing the microphone to Peter Parr, Director of Football at the Newcastle Knights, who delivered a very impressive vision on the future of the knights.

Aust and Parra winger Neville Glover furthered proceedings with a few humorous yarns, backed up by former ABC Grandstand presenter Gerry Collins, as he fuelled the mire of the evening.  Denman Rugby League Club President Jay Shepherdson, who is a regular to the tournament, also thrilled the crowd with his impressive auctioneering style.

The night progress to near perfection as the stunningly delicious five-star meal was unveiled by the Blue Water Grill. Which was the perfect fuel to prepare all engines for the following day’s golfing event.

Presented as a lush green field of enticement, the day exploded with anticipation as our salivating golfers ventured towards this ‘mint condition’ course, all complemented with fundraising entry fees, raffles and auction items… to deliver an optimum outcome for this worthy cause.

The major event played on the day was the Ross Gigg Memorial shield, named after a great Penrith clubman who passed away in 2014, after enjoying a very successful career spanning 10 years.

  • Winners were Jamie and Ryan O’connor, Simon Law and Jason Pepper,
  • Gymea course winners were Jon Voll, Bill Barton, Kirsten Conroy and Graeme Allen
  • Christmas course winners were Peter Kent, Neil Edwards, Rod Maher and Greg Bezidenhuit
  • Brush Box course winners were Matt Bailey, Darren Mottram, Stephen Eckersley and Sam Triffit

Tournament directors Max Pride and Gregg Spaggs were generous in their praise of the terrific support from sponsors and club officials, thanking all those associated with the event… culminating in an outstanding result for raising wellbeing funds.

The Family of League committee is extremely grateful to the wonderful support received from the local business and sporting communities and look forward to celebrating the fifteenth anniversary event in 2024.

New Deputy Chair, Brad Clyde.

Bradley Clyde elected as Deputy Chair to Family of League Board

The Chair of the Family of League Foundation, Helen Wood Grant, today announced the election of Bradley Clyde to the position of Deputy Chair of rugby league’s charitable arm effective immediately.

One of our game’s most decorated players, Clyde’s 230 game career with the Canberra Raiders, Canterbury Bulldogs and Leeds Rhinos was further complemented by being named in the NRL Hall of Fame and by extensive representative honours, beginning with the Australian Schoolboys, NSW City, NSW Country, NSW Origin and Australia.

He was awarded the Australian Sports Medal, the Clive Churchill medal twice, was named in the NSW Hall of Champions and Greatest Ever Raiders Team, is one of the 25 Best Ever Players for the NSW Blues, and was awarded the Harry Sunderland Medal for player of the Ashes series against Great Britain in 1992.

Since retiring from rugby league, Clyde has obtained a degree in business administration (MBA) and has built an impressive corporate career, providing expertise and knowledge across sales, innovation, high performance and transformation. He is currently a partner at Blenheim Partners International Executive Search Firm as well as a member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

“It is with great delight that I announce this new role for Bradley on our Board.  In his playing days he was described as a brilliant defender with a non-stop work rate in attack and that’s exactly the energy he brings to all matters the Board considers.  His contribution since he joined the Board, his deep connection to our great game and his high profile have brought so much,” says Helen Wood Grant.

“I would also like to thank Alan Sullivan KC for his contribution as previous Deputy Chair.  His considered views, extensive rugby league involvement and intellectual rigour are invaluable assets to the Family of League.   We are fortunate that Alan will stay on as Director despite his many roles in sport including ARLC Commissioner, Senior Commissioner – Cricket Australia Code of Conduct Commission, Commissioner – International Cricket Council Conduct Commission, and member of the international Court of Arbitration for Sport,” she said.

“It is an absolute honour to continue to provide direction to the Australian rugby league charity of choice, Family of League Foundation, firstly as Non-Executive Director and now as the Deputy Chair. It is the perfect alignment for me within the rugby league community and the need to assist financially, emotionally and socially the people who have made our game so great. With Helen and Alan as friends and mentors of the highest nature I now welcome their counsel in my role as Deputy Chair,” says Bradley Clyde.    

April Monthly Wellbeing Experiences

Family of League are here to support those that have supported our great game!

Another busy month of assisting with wellbeing issues has come and gone. Here is a small ‘glimpse’ of the many folk we have, and continue to, support during their tough times:

A gentleman in his 60s required financial support to assist with a hip replacement. As a player and volunteer for over 35 years, including everything from coach to groundsman in the South-East Qld region, he has made a significant contribution to rugby league. Three recent back operations and ongoing medical support is also severely eradicating his, as well as his wife’s, financial future. Currently, he isn’t mobile without the assistance of crutches or walking sticks via both arms. Even so, he experiences severe pain and distress in the process. Compound this with the associated physical and emotional stress and you can readily understand his and their life is radically affected.

Fortunately, Family of League are assisting them at this time.

A wonderful lady in her mid-30s, has been involved with our great game for over 20 years. Her husband coached as well as played (together with their three kids) in local teams, while she also managed teams, even collecting monies at entry gates and serving the good stuff at club canteens.

Unfortunately, domestic violence has shattered this family. Not only was she, and her sons, treated violently, this poor lady was misled with the family income and savings. After many years of loyally supporting her husband and kids, she has virtually nothing.

Therefore, not only have the lives of this mother and her sons been dramatically impacted, her ability to pay for life’s basics, including simple school necessities, has become quite desperate.

However, we are there.

Aged 40, married, and living in the outer Western Suburbs of Sydney, this gentlemen played in the juniors for 6 years… with some of their kids playing for local teams as well as volunteering. Sadly, he has been diagnosed with advanced cancer requiring chemotherapy and medication. With side effects challenging his daily activities and facing massive health issues, this gentleman can’t work any further… plus his annual leave and sick pay have been exhausted, with any savings totally depleted.

What the family requires, aside from stability in health, is support to pay the bills and assist with horrendous medical costs. Again, Family of League are making a difference.

There’s also a wonderful fellow in his early 70s who abides in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs. He has spent time as a coach and assistant coach for major Sydney teams, and even to this day still works part-time at a local footy club. However, Parkinson’s Disease has struck. This adjustment to life requires a relocation to more suitable accommodation and, as he has had a knee operation, he’ll require something low on the ground. In an age group where Super was not a high priority all those years ago, he has financial pressures as to how to pay for his upcoming radical lifestyle challenges.

As with the above situations, Family of League are assisting this rugby league warrior, as well as many, many others that have nowhere to turn. No doubt, we will share some of these and upcoming experiences next month. Stay healthy!

How the Canberra Raiders stole the hearts of this Nyngan Family

Raiders Steal The Hearts Of This Nyngan Family

John and Dianne Wynne, plus their two children, Ebony and Cooper, live in Nyngan NSW. Although, in reality, they’ve all spent so much time supporting Cooper in Sydney hospitals, that ‘home’ can have various meanings.

As a young fella, John played all his Rugby League locally, playing for the Nyngan Tigers as a junior and up to first grade/reserve grade. He went on to coach junior rugby league for many years as well as becoming a board member. John’s son, Cooper, also played in the Nyngan Junior Rugby League comp for the last 10 years and was a member of the Under 14s’ side when something terrible occurred.

On the 3rd November 2021, John and Diane received the devastating news that their 13-year-old son Cooper was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma (bone cancer), a tumour on his spine. Cooper was immediately flown 600km by air ambulance to Westmead Children’s Hospital, Sydney, with the family relocating to Ronald McDonald House, Westmead.

Cooper’s doctor stated: “Cooper presented to us with acute spinal cord compression requiring urgent intervention including a laminectomy and partial debulking of his tumour (as well as chemotherapy) to decompress the injury on his spinal cord. Unfortunately, the damage received by the tumour is likely to be permanent. Further surgery is anticipated and is likely to be prolonged.”

Last year, Family of League became aware that Cooper and his wonderful family were Canberra Raiders’ fans (that should read: rusted-on fanatics!). Amongst several ways of assisting Cooper and his family, we organised a meet-and-greet with several Raiders’ team members when they played at Parramatta’s home ground, even presenting Cooper with a Raiders’ jersey signed by several players.

Just a few weekends ago, we amped things up.

The Cooper family drove over 500km from Nyngan to Canberra, advising Cooper (as they wanted to surprise him) this was just a trip to visit family.

You can imagine Cooper’s amazement when his parents guided the car into the carpark of the Raiders’ new compound. Then, after a tour of the facilities, they enjoyed a private viewing of the Captain’s Run followed by meeting coach Ricky and all the Raiders’ legends. Then, to everyone’s surprise, Cooper’s favourite player, Cory Horsburgh, presented Cooper with his footy boots.

Furthermore, Family of League had also brought down the Raiders’ jersey (from last year’s Parramatta game), however it was now framed and signed by all Raiders’ players. When presented to Cooper by big hitter Josh Papali’i, surrounded by his Raider idols, well… let’s just say there weren’t too many dry eyes about.

To top things off, the following day at the Raiders Vs Dragons game, the Cooper family were invited on the field sideline to form an honour guard for the player entry. As a once-in-a-lifetime experience, they felt the roar of the Viking clap in unison with the flame throwing pyrotechnics (and, as it was only 13 degrees, the brief heat was certainly comforting).

Then, with captain Elliott Whitehead leading, on ran the mighty Canberra Raiders… through the honour guard headed by Cooper Wynne and his family.

Heading home, no doubt the Cooper family were overjoyed with their team battling out a tight win, but more so with what they had encountered over those two days. And that this awesome experience, as well as the framed jersey and many other magical Raiders’ moments will long linger in young Cooper’s memory.

We also hope that weekend, where the Wynne family’s beloved Raiders ‘gave back’, continues to make a real difference… as that family moves forward to face the long battles ahead.  

(Pictured above: the Wynne family front the honour guard as the players run on. Inset: FOL committee president Gary Green joins the Wynne family and Canberra players for the jersey presentation)