Photo: Mackay Daily Mercury

The Queensland Rugby League fraternity is mourning the loss of Mackay stalwart Greg Sutherland, who passed away last weekend aged 54.

Sutherland served on the QRL Board for two years as the Northern Division Chairman before health issues forced him to step aside.

His replacement, Nigel Tillett, described Sutherland as one of the most passionate administrators he had worked with.

“He fought for so many levels of the game,” Tillett said.

Greg’s funeral service will be held on Saturday, November 14. The venue and time will be confirmed shortly. 

The 'driving force'

THE instigator and driving force behind Mackay's stadium and our annual Cowboys games, Greg Sutherland was also a rock on which the success of Mackay rugby league and many indigenous causes in our city have built over many years.

He was larger than life and would be swamped by people wanting to talk to him as soon as he entered any gathering; a recognition of his standing as a toiler for the causes he believed in over many years.

I came to know Greg in the 90s when I was working in sport for the Daily Mercury and my wife Rhonda was at the TAFE, where he also worked for indigenous groups.

As Greg was Mackay rugby league chairman , he and I talked often about the issues and opportunities in his sport, and before long he was writing a weekly column called Talking League.

It was written in typical Greg-speak, which is to say it was not quite perfect news copy, but any footy fan understood what he was talking about and it was hugely popular.

Like a true dedicated journo, Greg never missed an edition of Talking League even if he was in hospital or on a deserted island in Vanuatu delivering supplies to schools or hospitals - just one of the many things he did, quietly and efficiently, without fuss.

My favourite memory is of watching Greg clean up rubbish from the side of the showgrounds field during a match between the Knights and Cowboys in 2004, when to-be league Immortal Joey Johns made his comeback from an injury.

Here's the man who has sweated blood for months to organise the game, and he's also the cleaner!

Without Greg's extensive contacts in league and government, Mackay footy fans may not have had the opportunity to watch players like Joey and the Cowboys' JT go around, even if we had to do it from rickety stands thrown up in the weeks before the matches.

Way back then it was obvious that we needed a stadium and Greg was the guiding force which eventually achieved it in August 2011. And it was his inside knowledge and persistence which landed our first NRL fixture match between the Bulldogs and Knights in July 2013, a dream come true for footy fans.

Greg and wife Blanche were always great supporters of indigenous causes, and at any fund-raising night they'd be there, bidding for the signed jerseys which they had already donated.

Despite illness Greg soldiered on in recent years, continuing to support his beloved Norths club and league in general.

We mourn his passing.

Tributes on social media have also poured in.

- Charlie Payne, Mackay Daily Mercury