QRL correspondent Carolyn Moriarty caught up with some of the clubs in the Northern Division regions to see how they fared during the recent cyclone.
As the mountains of debris continue to grow on the footpaths around the Whitsunday shire following the devastation of Cyclone Debbie, rugby league is playing its role in the recovery of these league loving communities.
While the local rugby league clubs assess the damage and contemplate the future, North Queensland Cowboys Justin O’Neill, Matty Bowen and Brent Tate visited bringing excitement and joy to juniors across the region.
This was a welcome distraction from the seemingly unending clean up, however with local competitions about to commence, the focus now turns to the rugby league grounds and the impact Cyclone Debbie has had on the existing football infrastructure.
Proserpine Junior Rugby League secretary Leanne Hoffman said the clubhouse, in particular the new section which was opened in June 2016 to commemorate 50 years of Junior League in Proserpine, had been devastated by water damage.
“Old news clippings, donated trophies and displays of memorabilia had been damaged when about 30 cm of water flooded the building,” Hoffman said.
“The ticket box had been completely destroyed, and there is a lot of tree damage. All the club’s paperwork has been destroyed.”
Once power was lost, club members went in and removed all the food in freezers and fridges.
“We donated the food to restaurants who were cooking meals for the volunteers in town to help clean up. Otherwise we would have had to throw it all out.”
The club is hopeful that there will be no interruption to the season.
“The fields held up really well.” The clubs are yet to assess the training equipment to see what can be salvaged.
The Whitsunday Brahmans president Michael Malone said club members hadn’t fully been able to assess what total damage had been done as essential services were using the field as a landing pad for helicopters.
On initial inspections, Malone said there appears to be some water damage, but they were yet to inspect the roof and buildings for any structural damage.
“The field lights have completely changed direction which gives a good indication of the strength of the winds and the boundary fences have been completely destroyed.”
Despite this, he was confident everything would fall into place for the first home game against Norths on April 29.
“We’re pretty confident we’ll be right by then, but if not, we will swap a home game for later on in the season.”
An example of some of the damage done by the recent cylone.
Further north in Bowen, President Brett Glazebrook described the damage to the home of the Bowen Junior Seagulls.
“Team seats on the far side of the field have been destroyed,” he said. “The telegraph pole with lights was smashed, and fell over destroying a tree, which destroyed the pump that operates the sprinklers.
“Toilet doors were completely ripped off, and the old scorer’s box which was done up last year had its sides blown off.
“We lost about $2000 - $3000 dollars worth of food in the canteen due to power loss.
“This isn’t covered in the insurance unfortunately.”
Glazebrook is uncertain if the club will be ready for the Round 2 of the season on April 22 when the club is scheduled to have its first game of the season.
“Our immediate concern is to keep the fields green until the pump can be repaired,” he said.
“Players might not have benches to sit on, but hopefully we can get the games on the field.”
Despite the damage, and losses the clubs have experienced, all three are sure the best way forward is for local residents to continue supporting league.
“As long as people stay involved in their clubs, and come along to the games, we will be right,” Malone said.
The Bowen Seagulls are celebrating their 50th birthday this year, and Glazebrook initiated an invitation to the International Legends of League game to celebrate the occasion.
The game, to be held on May 20 will provide more than an opportunity to celebrate this significant milestone.
It will give rugby league an opportunity to shine in these cyclone ravaged communities, and show the league’s collective support and gratitude of the communities who are still doing it tough.
The game and other planned activities will give local residents a chance to momentarily forget the fear and despair that, along with the wind and rain, inundated the area on Tuesday, March 28, 2017.
Any league supporters wanting to offer their support or assistance can contact the clubs on the following numbers:
Proserpine Junior Rugby League: Leanne Hoffman – 0419683037
Whitsunday Brahmans Senior Rugby League: Mick Malone – 0407451956
Bowen Junior Rugby League: Brett Glazebrook - 0400515434