Bundaberg lost one of its finest sporting identities last Thursday night with the passing of Malcolm Breen, following a brave battle with illness during the last months of his life.
Not only was Mal a great competitor in his favourite sport, rugby league, but he was a very successful administrator for the game he loved.
Having served as Chairman of the Bundaberg Rugby League from 1998 – 2012, he signed up for the job nobody wanted when first taking on the helm of the League.
The organisation owed $138,000 to a long list of creditors, and with the seats of the Salter Oval grandstand sitting vacant, he took on an enormous task.
With strong support from his fellow executive and committee members, some who signed as guarantors on a bank loan to clear the debt, he led his organisation back into the black.
Nobody was coming to games; the clubs were struggling, and the juniors were in disarray.
Mal was the first to comment that "it took a lot of good blokes to raise the money and get things up and running again".
To quote current Bundaberg Rugby League Chairman Mike Ireland, "Mal had a lot of willing workers but he steered the ship".
He enticed Wallaroos from Maryborough, Isis (Childers), and Hervey Bay into the local competition, expanding the League and setting it up to be the success it is today.
Mal Breen, or 'Breeny' as he was popularly known, was distinguished as a player and coach throughout his career, having played first grade with Norths Devils in Brisbane in 1964.
In 1968, he returned to his hometown, Bundaberg, where he played for Wanderers.
He then tried his hand at coaching and was a player/coach for Wests Mackay in 1971, Past Brothers (Bundaberg) in 1972, Goondiwindi in 1973 and Hervey Bay in 1974, where he guided the Seagulls to a maiden premiership in the Maryborough competition.
Mal retired as a player in 1975, and in 1976 took on the President's role at Wanderers.
Mal's legacy has continued with current Bundaberg Rugby League Chairman Mike Ireland continuing the good work, providing the strong leadership he inherited to make rugby league the number one sport in the district for patrons and supporters.
Breeny, the man who loved the greatest game of all, stepped down in 2013 but ensured his League had great facilities at Salter Oval, the now home of rugby league in Bundaberg.
I am sure all rugby league supporters who knew Mal send their condolences to his beloved wife, Shane, children Damien, Stacey, and Scott and his seven grandchildren whom he loved dearly.
Rest in peace, Malcolm John Breen.
Friends of the late Mal Breen are respectfully invited to attend his funeral to be held at the Holy Rosary Catholic Church, Bundaberg, on Wednesday, June 6, at 10am.
*This tribute was written by Bundaberg QRL Operations Manager Dave Pearce.