Family of League wellbeing support for the rugby league community

February Monthly Wellbeing Activities

A veteran of on-field battles doing it tough off-field

A mother of three daughters and avid Broncos as well as Warriors supporter, this 30-something player has run on the paddock for over half a dozen teams and grades. In the process of leading a busy life on the field, as well as an active family life in between games, this mum started to notice a growing and deeper pain, from what had previously been slightly annoying but regular headaches.

This now presented as something quite menacing.

Late last year, upon consultation with a radiologist, she was told some very confronting news… and underwent brain surgery to remove a large tumour pushing on her brain stem.

Because of her intensive recovery, she is unable to work or drive for quite some time.

Although this operation has relieved the intense headaches she had been suffering from, she is now facing pressure associated with paying the bills and maintaining a stable household; having exhausted her sick leave and holiday entitlements.

Our foundation is now assisting with payments towards her mortgage, utility bills and living expenses.

Sea eagle fan grounded with a busted knee

Another mum, with a passion for the Sea Eagles and one of her three sons playing in a local JRLFC, has incurred a knee injury.

In recent months, she has been on unpaid maternity leave looking after her 8-month-old twins. To compound her loss of income, her tradie husband has recently lost his job. This can’t be easily replaced as he has to ‘keep the home fires burning’ and look after his three children and recuperating wife… who is unable to bear weight on her leg.

Because of their connection with the JRLFC, and their club voicing that this mum has been a great asset to junior footy, Family of League are stepping in to provide monetary support with their escalating financial pressures.

The damage one miscalculated step can make

An ex-player in his 50s, who played from the late 70s to late 90s for teams on both sides of the Qld/NSW border has also been doing it tough.

In a family besotted with rugby league, he and his wife raised several children, with two of the three playing for local footy clubs… as well as the community cricket team in summer.

As a self-employed carpenter, he is often approached to lend his experience to his friends and neighbours. Early in 2024, he was doing ‘the right thing’ and assisting a friend to remove corrugated iron off a household roof. To everyone’s shock, witnesses spotted him falling headfirst directly on to the concrete at the base of his ladder.

Sustaining a number of serious injuries, including a contusion to his head, multiple fractured ribs (some ribs were later described as shattered), punctured lung leading to pneumothorax and a fracture to his left wrist/thumb. Needless to say, although he lived… he is in a very bad way.

While swathed in a mass of bandages and facing a substantial time of recuperation ahead, as the sole income earner for his wife and himself, this gentlemen is also faced with a barrage of financial worries.

As there is no question to he and his family’s commitment to rugby league and their many years of support for our sport, the Family of League Foundation has stepped in to alleviate their fiscal concerns.

Las Vegas rugby League

What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas… unless you work for Family of League!

LAS VEGAS, NV – National Manager for Fundraising, Partnerships & Events, Doug Keen, recently embarked on a trip of a lifetime with his family, personally funding their visit to the NRL’s Double Header season opener in Las Vegas. This adventure brought back many memories for Doug, specifically his deep involvement with American Rugby League since the 1990s, as a trainer and referee, which solidified his passion for the sport.

Prior to the upcoming game day, Doug had the opportunity to reunite with friends he hadn’t seen in decades at the USA Rugby League Players reunion, also held in Vegas. The event was a nostalgic gathering, evoking cherished memories from Doug’s extensive involvement in the sport.

Many states of excitement

Additionally, Doug and his family took advantage of their time in this area, exploring nearby popular tourist destinations such as Hollywood, Universal Studios, Disneyland – and even venturing to Palm Springs for a delightful-desert sojourn.

They also enjoyed visiting the famous Raiderettes’ museum, adorned with all the American football culture this gun entertainment team is well known for around the world.

Doug and his family also had the privilege of staying at the Las Vegas Hilton. Alongside the footy players, media circus, and NRL club administration, further immersing himself in the rugby league buzz that permeated the city. Similar to a game of ‘Frogger’, they jumped from one bunch of footy friends to another… all abuzz with footy fever, while building incredible memories for years to come.

However, when it came to game-time, he was certainly impressed by the state-of-the-art Allegiant Stadium. Doug described it as “first class” and marvelled at its sheer size, styling and presence… having only been built just three years ago. Plus, the fans themselves were super hyped for an outstanding experience, with thousands adorning themselves in team jerseys and club colours, creating a vibrant atmosphere.

Action on an off the field

Doug is not one for kicking back and just watching. Not only was he super enthusiast about attending the games, in between bumping into old buddies like the NRL’s Renee Gartner, he also participated as a sideline participant. Appointed as the person responsible for overseeing a constant supply of footballs for each match, he made sure there were plenty of backup footies when the ball was kicked out into the crowd. Unlike Australia, in the US, when the ball is kicked out, any fortunate fan that catches the ball… keeps the ball. Fortunately, when that happened, Doug was on the job!

Reflecting on the event, Doug expressed his belief that this footy extravaganza lived up to all the hype, even exuding a grand final atmosphere. He predicts that next year’s crowd will easily expand to an impressive 45,000 to 50,000 attendees.

However, amidst the excitement, Doug also kept a constant vigilance for any ‘unfair play’, even off the paddock. This paid off when he thwarted three pickpockets attempting to steal his wallet from a back pocket. His assertive response, including calling loudly for police and security, sent the criminals fleeing.

Wrapping up this amazing experience

In Doug’s eyes, the event was truly memorable and executed with utmost professionalism. His involvement in the game events and familiarity with key figures in the footy world even led to several TV interviews broadcast to Australia.

Doug’s enthusiasm for the experience is evident as he wholeheartedly recommends attending next year’s event. He advises visitors to allocate more than just a weekend (he and his family spent a week), as there is an abundance of activities to enjoy in Vegas and along the West Coast of the United States… and all of it, according to Doug and his family, was an outstanding experience!

Doug has also brought some of that USA razzle dazzle back with him, as he prepares his latest Family of League fundraising event at Ryde Eastwood Leagues Club. Kicking off this Friday 15 March at Noon, this ‘Rugby League-Australia to the USA’ lunch event features Cliff Lyons, David Boyle, Denis Fitzgerald, Paul Dunn, Gladiator Mark McGaw with MC Renee Gartner and comedian Rob Shehadie + more! For details click here.

Darryl Van de Velde

Darryl Van de Velde

The Family of League Foundation sends our deepest condolences to the family and friends of Darryl Van de Velde. Darryl was part of our family, serving as Director from 2012-2019, being awarded Life Membership in 2017 and was instrumental in the establishment of our Foundation (then Men of League) in Queensland including the formation of its Events Committee, as State President and volunteering in a range of leadership roles.  He was a long-serving and hugely influential Director of the QRL and held numerous roles throughout rugby league at every level including as inaugural CEO of South Queensland Crushers.

A champion of grass roots footy, Darryl was a former professional rugby league footballer, coach and administrator.  He played club football in Queensland for Souths and represented his state in 1977. After playing, he coached the Brisbane Rugby League premiership’s Redcliffe side in 1986 and 1987, taking his club to consecutive grand finals. Darryl also coached in the UK for Castleford, Warrington, Huddersfield and London Broncos.

Chair of Family of League, Helen Wood Grant, said, “We are deeply saddened at the passing of this remarkable man.  His contribution to so many aspects of rugby league is incalculable and his energy and kindness along the way left an indelible mark on anyone lucky enough to know him.  Our Foundation was incredibly fortunate to have Darryl’s time and talents devoted to it for many years and his recognition as Life Member attests to his outstanding contribution.

It was my privilege to serve on the Board alongside Darryl and to know him personally. To his much-loved wife Jacque and his daughters, and to his army of friends, on behalf of Family of League Board, staff and volunteers I send my profound sympathy and share your sorrow at the scale of this loss.”

Family of League provide wellbeing support for those involved in rugby league.

January Monthly Wellbeing Activities

A dramatic shift in lifestyle

A 65-year-old gentleman who played footy for three different clubs is now confronting a new battle in his life. Last year, due to poor circulation, he had his left leg amputated below the knee. Not only has this been a dramatic shock to an otherwise healthy person, this loss of limb resulted in the patient losing a large part of his independent lifestyle.

While there is hope he will eventually recuperate to a level which allows him to drive a car, in the current circumstances he requires the use of a motorised scooter to get to the shops, access community facilities as well as visit neighbours and local friends.

So, Family of League have equipped this ex-player with the appropriate scooter equipped with a canopy, plus two years of servicing. As someone who spent many years on the field bring pleasure to footy fans, it is now our turn to show our appreciation.

Facing many battles, this man is desperate for a win

Another ex-footballer (pictured above) is also facing extremely large challenges… and plenty of them. This senior citizen also played for several clubs including junior and senior footy. Once he put the boots away, he continued to contribute to our game via committee involvement.

However, his focus is now dealing with an array of health threats. These include prostate cancer, lung cancer and bone cancer. Plus, he is struggling with heart disease. Compounding all this, several years ago he was injured in a motorcycle accident… resulting in long term issues associated with back and limb fractures.

These health pressures have also compounded his mobility and he desperately requires a motorised scooter to access local facilities.

Again, we have been able to step in and provide assistance to this man’s desperate needs, setting him up with the appropriate scooter as well as a back-up battery. And, as he’s a Bulldogs’ supporter, we provided him with a blue one!

Facing a sudden health catastrophe after decades of footy dedication

A middle-aged man who, together with his immediate family, has spent over 35 years actively involved with rugby league. Either playing (his daughter also ran on to the paddock), coaching, mentoring… even assisting in canteen, front gate, can bar duties as well as selling raffle tickets.

Working as head coach, his health deteriorated to such an extent that he was eventually diagnosed with Leber’s hereditary optic neuropathy. Unfortunately, there is no known treatment available to treat or even manage this condition. Hence, he will be continued visual impairment for the rest of his life.

He has lost his ability to work and will need considerable support just to undertake routine daily tasks.

This shocking illness has drained the family’s finances, not only with pressure to maintain mortgage and utility payments… but even to put food on the table. Plus, the medical bills are also mounting.

As per the previous wellbeing recipients, Family of League are supporting this gentleman and his family – as it is an honour to show our appreciation to those that have given to our game.

Family of League National Wellbeing Manager, Roxanne Moates, chats to a wellbeing recipient.

Wrapping up our 2023 wellbeing activities

In what has been an extensively busy year with our wellbeing activities, we asked Family of League National Wellbeing Manager, Roxanne Moates, to share her experiences with some of the grants she oversaw while wrapping up 2023.

Roxanne said, “Gradually losing any of our essential six senses as we age can be challenging, however this is not entirely unexpected. Imagine the turmoil your life would be thrown into if in your early 40s you begin to lose your vision? Then, by your mid-40s, your vision has deteriorated to a point where you are no longer able to read the newspaper or see the birds chirping in the trees, let alone make a cup of tea, drive a car, or continue in your chosen field of work? This is the situation that faced a wonderfully community-minded family man on Qld’s Sunshine Coast in early 2023.

Having played Rugby League for over 15 years before moving into coaching and volunteering roles, being physically active was always a huge part of his daily life. Post diagnosis has seen his focus shift to learning to navigate his way around his home again; which he reports he’s now doing so with confidence. Now he is also spending time discovering how to explore the world at large, both safely and independently with the assistance of his newly acquired cane.

It is not unusual to see him out and about in his local community, enjoying the footpath under his feet and the breeze on his face as he goes about his daily fitness routine.

Thanks to the Family of League Foundation supporting him and his family, via our financial grant, he has had one less thing to worry about while he is adjusting to his new normal.”

Roxanne continued with some wonderful words she received from one of her wellbeing clients: “If not for the family of League, we don’t know where we would be? The care and support shown by the people we have worked with is amazing. The Family of League allows us to see light at the end of the tunnel. From the financial assistance to the friendly manner in which we are treated… it is amazing.”

Rox went on to say, “These words echo the sentiments for so many of those that the Foundation assist, but for this family of three, living in a caravan park on the north side of Brisbane, it expresses the desperation and fear they felt when their main breadwinner was unable to work while recovering from leg surgery to remove a cancerous tumour. With recovery taking longer then expected and funds becoming scarce, reaching out to the Foundation was their final hope.

The freedom and promise that financial support provided to this family was demonstrated, not just in the words that they shared, but also in the hope that was restored to them when the promise of a brighter future became a reality.”

Thanks, Roxanne, for this quick glimpse into your activities. Keep up the great work in 2024!

Pictured are Lance, Leigh, Ron and Neville Glover from the Central Coast Family of League Committee.

Central Coast Committee visit Our Lady of Loreto Gardens

By Leigh Peacock (Committee Wellbeing Coordinator)

Members of the Central Coast Committee were pleased to pay a visit recently to the residents and staff at Our Lady of Loreto Gardens Aged Care facility at Hamilyn Terrace, a suburb of the Central Coast region north of Sydney.

The Committee’s Neville Glover, Leigh Peacock, and Lance Henry were invited to visit by current resident Ron Pomering – a former player with the Roosters and English club, Bramley.

Previously, Ron had been a passionate and highly involved Sydney Metro Committee member with the (formally known) Men of League in Sydney. However, with his own health challenges, he now receives ongoing assistance from the Family of League and Chelsea Old Mates. Jim Williams and his mum, Dot, who is also a resident, were in attendance. Dot expressed her gratitude and appreciation for the ongoing support of Jim by the Foundation.

So, it was our pleasure to meet Ron, Jim, and Dot prior to an introductory presentation about the vision and values of the Family of League Foundation… the charitable heart of rugby league. We explained to the residents the Foundation’s mission is to ensure those most in need within the rugby league community can access financial, social and emotional support.

The residents were a captive audience as many had previously played the game or were volunteers. They were delighted by our visit, asking many questions and were pleasantly surprised by the scope and magnitude of the Foundation’s charitable works.

It was an inspiring visit for all concerned.

Pictured are Lance, Leigh, Ron and Neville.

Family of League wellbeing activities in November 2023

November Monthly Wellbeing Activities

The smallest battler takes on the biggest of challenges

A large family of seven has recently relocated from North Queensland to the southern part of the state, with the father having run on to the paddocks for the past 15 years for both regions. Sadly, one their young sons, a JRLFC player who hasn’t even reached the age of 10, has now been diagnosed with a form of brain cancer.

He has had a stent inserted into his brain in order to drain excess fluid while also being fitted with a special helmet and body suit to protect him during his many weeks of radiation. This is all to prepare his suitability for operations to remove an array of tumours.

To compound this oppressive situation, the father is also impacted by health issues and is unable to work.

Fortunately, someone in his local footy club contacted the Family of League, and we have been able to alleviate some of the financial pressures this family are currently facing.

On field injury tackles a promising career

A young footy player in his early 20s has also relocated to the big smoke of Sydney from his hometown in Northern NSW. For the past few years he has had a good run with the Harold Matthews Cup as well as the SC Ball teams. Living in the southern suburbs, life seemed quite promising as he split his love of rugby league with his worktime activities. However, he incurred an on-field injury where his shoulder was dislocated, requiring surgery.

While certain medical bills were taken care of by insurance, he has not been able to return to work until he is medically cleared. Living away from home, his bills have been escalating. Plus, he is also under emotional pressure as his mother is suffering from bowl cancer. He was introduced to the Family of League by another player we have assisted, and our wellbeing officers have been able to ‘bridge the financial gap’ and provide a stabilising influence on his precarious situation.

Losing everything, including the roof over their heads

A mother of two has been facing a battle to find accommodation for her family. Having split from her ex-husband several years ago, someone who had initially played during the 80s for junior and senior grades in several NSW clubs, life has been tough as a single mum. Having once been a ball girl for a regional NSW footy club, her parents were also deeply involved with our sport as captain, coach and president of several clubs.

Her ex-husband had been providing enormous assistance to their children through child support and paid for most of the children’s expenses including school fees, excursions, uniforms and sporting registrations, etc. However, he has now passed away leaving her children without a father and very distraught.

Dealing with financial, accommodation and emotional issues has been quite overwhelming for this mum. Dealing with family transport is also a major concern as she suffers from epilepsy and can’t drive, which also impacts her ability to earn an income. Again, like so many people we have assisted this month – and year – Family of League wellbeing officers are assisting this family to a better quality of life.

Providing wellbeing support for our rugby league family

October Monthly Wellbeing Activities

Someone without a shoulder to lean on

A young fellow who spends his weekdays fitting accessories to four-wheel-drive vehicles, and weekends running around for his local rugby league team, has hit the wall. Just over a year ago he was taking the ball up when he encountered a body-jarring tackle. Resulting in an injury that required surgery.

Placed on the hospital’s waiting list, as a public healthcare patient it was over a year until he could be operated on. In that time, his sick leave has expired and he hasn’t been able to work or bring in an income.

Although he spent his youth chasing the pill up and down the paddock, nothing prepared him for the physical (as well as psychological) impact this injury would enact. While he has a partner doing the best she can to support him and their household, there single income is not coping with their unbalanced income. With the mountain of bills getting higher and higher, he has reached out to us for support. A helping hand to give him a breather until he is cleared to return to the workplace.

Trying to see a future

A gentleman in his late 40s is also facing an uncertain future, after an extensive 20-year history playing in Australia as well as New Zealand across many grades and clubs. Previously employed as a meatworker, he incurred a grisly injury at his worksite which rendered him unemployed.

Compounding this life-changing event, he also suffers from diabetes which has impacted his ability to see and hear. Although his injury entitles him to receive Workcover, these funds do not cover essentials such as a hearing aid and visual support.

With the aim of getting ‘out of the rut’, he is retraining himself to re-enter the workforce by studying a diploma in youth work.

In the meantime, Family of League are assisting him with his optical and audible equipment needs, and hopefully bridge the gap to employment.

Torn between two towns

A young man from Mid Nth Coast NSW was living the life. He excelled as a local junior and was invited to play with two Sydney teams. Full of excitement about moving to ‘the big smoke’, he relocated from his rural town to a Sydney suburb, and settled into his new life with expectations to go somewhere in our game.

In August this year, while involved in a multi-player tackle, another player landed on his elbow which impacted his shoulder.

Two months later he underwent shoulder surgery, then physiotherapy to assist with optimising the strength and mobility of his arm. While his club’s insurance covers his medical bills, he is now unemployed and has no way to provide for the cost of living.

Unfortunately, while he is surely tempted to return home and mitigate these rising bills, he must stay in Sydney… where he can access the best medical support. Family of League wellbeing officers are providing a solution for him.

A battler from the North

A North Queenslander, slightly shy of age 80, who has spent decades either playing, coaching or working hard in admin for our sport, now faces one of his biggest battles of all: cancer.

He has been continuously fighting this for 4 years, unfortunately he has had to make the tough decision to have his left leg amputated.

He and his wife have retired and are supported by their pension payments, however this does not cover equipment costs associated with this radical change in lifestyle. As is quite common with those of this generation, there is also no super to fall back on.

To provide mobility, Family of League are looking at accessing a wheelchair and other areas of support for this man, as a way of thanking him for his many years of involvement in our great game.

So, while things are quite on our sporting fields, we are still quite busy assisting those in our rugby league family needing a hand, with the above only a small glimpse of the many we have supported this month.

Helping rugby league families

September Monthly Wellbeing Activities

A referee battles against hard times.

This Queensland gentleman, who has served our sport well as a referee, now has a battle with cancer. This has impacted his ability to work and keep the bills at bay. The resultant pressure on his health as well as financial concerns of providing for his family have had a tremendous impact. Fortunately, his local Family of League committee heard about his situation and are supporting him and his family through this rough patch.

A family of battlers.

A wonderful lady who maintains a happy household with her husband and 4 children has had her life devastated with cancer. Having regularly volunteered at her footy canteen as well as assisting the rugby league teams, which 3 of her kids played for, this self-confessed ‘Parra fanatic’ adores her family’s connection with the game, while her family have also been greatly embraced by their local club.

Originally from Sydney, they moved to a Queensland community where they feel supported, and the location offers reasonable access to a major hospital. Sadly, she has been told her cancer is not curable… however it is treatable. Although, to make matters worse, her loving husband suffered a massive stroke which has impacted his ability to work.

Receiving limited government support, Family of League has been able to financially bridge the gap and be there for this family as they traverse their way through some dark days.

When business stops.

A family that had few concerns about finance have had their world turn upside down with the recent passing of the family’s father. Having overseen their children playing local community footy in and around Southeast Queensland, the mother is now confronted with some serious, and mounting, bills.

Though the father ran his own business and had health cover, the insurance payout is uncertain as the insurance company is disputing the precise nature of his passing. While this payment would be incredibly helpful, the family has been advised it may take another 12 months to determine an outcome , which has been overwhelming for the mother as she has had to wind up the business and even pay staff out, before any funds go to the family.

Meanwhile, the gap between income and outgoings increases at a progressive rate. Again, as they were connected to a local rugby league community in contact with Family of League, we are there with support.

A big step backwards in life.

A young apprentice roofer in the prime of life, someone who has run on the paddock for the past 3 seasons for his local community team, has incurred a radical change in life by breaking his foot in several places. The latest medical examination suggests a possible timeframe of around 6 months until his foot is capable of maintaining the correct balance and strength required when straddling rooftops during his day-to-day workload.

Living by himself, with no income and Centrelink delayed in offering assistance, all this fellow needs is a temporary helping hand to hold back the financial (and psychological) pressures and help him get back on his feet while he recovers.

These few examples are only a handful of the wellbeing recipients we have been able to assist this September. Stay tuned for next month’s update as we share how Family of League continues to make a difference to our wider rugby league family.