Queensland Rugby League and its massive network of clubs, participants, volunteers and fans will unite next weekend in a coordinated effort to raise additional funds for the NRL Vanuatu Appeal.
The NRL pledged $50,000 to UNICEF's rapid response network and a further $65,000 has been donated by the rugby league community in the wake of one of the worst cyclones to hit the Pacific.
By putting the call out for Queensland clubs to support the initiative on the weekend of April 18-19, the QRL hopes to generate further momentum behind the Appeal.
Active clubs will take collections on match days over the nominated weekend; and will use social media to encourage fans to lend a hand.
The disaster has touched many people in Australia, including our very own XXXX Queensland Maroons coach Mal Meninga.
“I’m a very proud Australian South Sea Islander,” Meninga said.
“Tanna Island is where my dad’s family come from, it was crushed and everything was knocked over.
“A lot of the villages have been flattened … it’s one of the worst hit areas, so obviously there’s a fair bit of sentiment there for me. That’s where my ancestors come from and I dare say I still have some family there.”
The Maroons coach is calling on footy fans to dig deep and support the Appeal.
“You look at every rugby league community throughout Queensland and New South Wales, and there will be some element of South Sea Islanders, a player or mum or dad, someone with South Sea blood in them involved in those communities,” Meninga said.
Each weekend, Queensland’s Intrust Super Cup is home to some of Vanuatu’s leading national talent, including Tweed Heads centre James Wood and Wynnum Manly hooker Alehana Mara.
Both are proud Vanuatu representatives who have a parent born and raised in the Pacific country.
Other Intrust Super Cup players with Vanuatu heritage include Zac Santo (Townsville Blackhawks), Travis Waddell (Souths Logan Magpies), Caleb Binge (Tweed Heads Seagulls), Javarn White (Central Queensland Capras), Joe Meninga (Sunshine Coast Falcons), Chris Binge (Tweed Head Seagulls) and Sam Pierce (Central Queensland Capras)
Vanuatu Rugby League official Ben Howard urged fans to consider the unique tropical destination for their next holiday.
“Donations are great and much needed, but the best thing people can do is take a holiday to Vanuatu,” Howard said.
“You can fly Air Vanuatu (from Brisbane/Sydney) and help stimulate the economy, of which tourism is the biggest industry.
“The hotels in the capital Port Vila are slowly re-opening. Espiritu Santo was largely unaffected and is fully operational in all terms of tourism. Air Vanuatu fly direct to Luganville once or twice a week.”
To lend a hand to the people of Vanuatu, visit www.unicef.org.au/nrl, or call the toll free number, 1800 822 542 to offer your donation.