In April this year, Boorowa Rugby Club player Nathan Stapleton suffered a life-changing spinal injury. The club conducted a fundraiser in July which was a tremendous success, with a total of $60,400.07 raised for his Spinal Injury Recovery Fund.
Classic Wallaby #588 Gary Pearse made the journey from Bermagui in support of the event. Here's a great yarn and wrap of activities that he has penned for us post-event.
“Country roads, take me home
To the place I belong
Rye Park, Rugby, Boorowa
Take me home, country roads”
John Denver may not have played halfback for West Virginia but his classic song encapsulates my recent visit to the NSW country town of Boorowa.
During my school years, I spent holidays on my uncle's farm at nearby Rye Park. A typical day was rabbiting, catching yabbies and helping with crutching (ask a Kiwi!) and general farm chores. Trips to Boorowa were often taken through the little town of Rugby and at that time little did I know to what degree each would influence my life.
All these great memories came floating back as I drove into Boorowa on a cold Saturday afternoon.
Arriving just after midday, most country folk had picked up their provisions and scampered back to the warmth of their blazing fireplaces. Not so this Saturday afternoon. I filed into a conga line of utes, trucks and more utes out to the local Boorowa Showground.
Not only was this a home game for the Boorowa Rugby Club, but “Ladies Day” and the all-important fundraising for Nathan Stapleton, who had recently broken his neck while playing for the Boorowa Goldies.
As I stepped out of my car the westerly wind, with a massive chill factor knocking on zero, blew straight through me. That’s coming from a coastal softy who had the car heater full blast for the last 5 hours. Not so whoosy were the flock of ‘Race Day “dressed ladies on their way to the champagne lunch on the top floor of the change rooms.
With flutes in hand, the girls cheered on their sisters, Boorowa Goldilocks against the formidable Temora Tuskers girl’s rugby team.
I settled in between the herd of Driza-Bone clad bushies creating a wind break and shared a yarn or two about the great history of the Goldies club. As with many country rugby clubs their organising committee headed by Jason Stuart, where all players and the main sponsor, The Irish Pub’s owner Mike Ward was the team manager, water boy and come all jobs.
The main game was a torrid affair with Boorowa Goldies taking the win with pride.
What followed the final whistle was truly a reflection of what is great about our game.
Fresh from calling full time the Referee Chris “Sprocket “Sweeny, a driving force behind the Forbes Rugby Club called for attention and introduced a club legend Shawry, a survivor of the 2002 Bali Bombing, where a number of the Forbes players were killed and injured both mentally and physically. It was an emotional moment when Shawry thanked Boorowa for its support during the aftermath of the 2002 disaster and that he, Chris and the club would like to donate $5000 towards the fundraising for Nathan Stapleton. The applause was deafening and deeply felt and appreciated by every Goldilocks and Goldie at the showground.
The sleet was coming in, the sun was dipping and not even a well-worn Driza-Bone was going to save us from frost bite.
Back at the Irish Pub, it was humming! The Ladies had been at it since midday and having a great time. I ducked back to my room to whip on a very special gift given to me 30 years earlier at a Boorowa Rugby presentation night.
In those days the club was struggling financially, so all had to bring a plate and club ties were woven from local merino wool by canteen lady and club life member Peggy. I have worn this tie with pride to many times to Country Rugby presentations. Peggy today at 93 years, only knits these ties for special occasions.
As tradition demands, each team had to elect and form its boat race teams. First were the girls, loudly applaud by the lady’s lunch group! As guest, I was pushed forward to start the race with the downing of a schooner of lager and when placing it on my head triggered each team to commence. This was followed by the guys with Guinness as the selected poison! Unfortunately, I had earlier praised the publican on his patience and care in pouring a fine Guinness, resulting in the unaminous vote that I should start the guys Guinness boat race as well!
I don’t know where he found the 1-pint pewter but I hope he loses it soon! While the lager flowed like silk, the Guinness stuck to every mouth and throat crevasse, nook and cranny on its way to my stomach, where fortunately it stayed!
Boorowa sailed to victory in both races. Which could not be said of the AllBlacks as they were getting a bashing by another Irish juggernaut, their national Rugby Team.
The night was gaining momentum with the fundraising coordinator Kirstie, giving us an update on Nathan’s condition and thanking all for the support of friends and family. I was honoured to add to the importance of giving not only Nathan’s family financial support but most importantly his wife and young kids. While I stressed the importance of raising money tonight, it was the old Beatles song “Money can’t buy me Love” that was needed post fundraising. While we all live busy lives, we need to put a tail on our efforts. It is so easy to move on, but for the family they have this for life, so just a small effort from many can make a real difference. I have no doubt a community as tight as this will embrace the challenge and deliver in spades.
Boorowa’s resident stock and station auctioneer Justin, was clearing his throat and we were off! Bids were going through the roof for signed jerseys and rugby memorabilia but there were two stand out items that illustrated how much this community wanted to give.
Firstly Peggy, had come out of retirement and knitted a “one off” special Boorowa merino tie that had a blue thread of wool down the centre of the contrasting Green and Gold weave. This signified Nathan’s playing days at the Cronulla Sharks. A true gift from Peg’s heart and was sold for $1800!
Next was a cracker. Local cement truck driver Russ “ Goober” Gorham, picked up some downpipe from the local hardware, caped both ends and cut a hole on the front face top and bottom. An afternoon at the local panel beaters to be sprayed gold, they then received Boorowa club logo and Nathan Stapleton Fundraising stickers. The smartest beer stubby holder dispenser you have ever seen.
Both went for $1000 each! People just wanted to give!
And so, they did with the total fundraising booty, a staggering $ 60,500.00
I was so fortunate to be included in such a great rugby event that makes me so proud to one of the broad Rugby Family. AllBlack and Wallaby losses on the night were insignificant when put in the context of not only helping one of us in need but the deep, passionate and engaging bond of the country rugby community.
Wallaby No 588