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)