Sharing smiles in rugby league heartland

The Queensland Rugby League Drought Relief Goodwill Tour kicks off next week on a mission to help bring smiles to people’s faces.

Central Division (Region) Manager Glenn Ottaway said everyone in the rugby league community was aware of the incredibly difficult circumstances people in drought-affected areas were dealing with in their day-to-day lives; but he hoped the Drought Relief Goodwill Tour would help provide some cheer to those doing it tough.

“Knowing the plight of some of the communities out there, and knowing that rugby league is something – irrespective of the conditions that they face – is something that always puts a smile on people’s faces (is why we are undertaking this tour),” he said.

“The idea of it being for goodwill is that we are not out there ... to do anything but talk to people, and give them something positive to talk about and hopefully put a smile on their face.”

The tour will begin next Monday (October 15) and visit Longreach, Blackall, Charleville, St George and Roma.

QRL Queensland Outback Operations Manager Peter Rafter has seen first-hand the hardships faced by people in these and surrounding areas; and while he would have loved for the tour to visit every affected area; it simply was no feasible.

“The Outback area, as you know is a large area, I think the area I cover is about 650,000 sq kms and it is a bit hard to get around to all the towns and schools in five days,” Rafter said.

“I can’t speak highly enough of the country people and how they handle their situation whilst still being so accommodating to everyone. 

“The word resilient is used a lot to describe the people on the drought effected farms in Western Queensland.  Until you speak to these people you realise this word is an understatement.

“Rugby league is one of the few distractions they have from their everyday problems and anything we can do is appreciated.”

In partnership with Men of League and FOGS; the touring party includes former Queensland Maroons players David Shillington (pictured above), Michael Crocker and Chris Walker, as well as Cronulla Sharks and former Ipswich Jets utility Kurt Capewell.

Mark Bunting, the Men of League's Queensland Wellbeing Manager, will also travel with the group.

“The places we are visiting are all what we would call rugby league towns and they all engage with the QRL regularly,” Ottaway said.

“We will have a game development element to the trip as well, so NRL Game Development staff will be coming on the tour as well to help run clinics at schools.”

A rundown of the tour is outlined below.

All people in and around these areas are encouraged to come out and meet the players and Men of League staff to swap stories and share a laugh. 

QRL Drought Relief Goodwill Tour Schedule

• Monday, October 15 – Longreach
Longreach State School, Birdcage Hotel (4pm to 7pm)

• Tuesday, October 16 – Blackall
Blackall State School, Barcoo Hotel (4pm to 7pm)

• Wednesday, October 17 – Charleville
Charleville State School, Charleville RSL (4pm to 7pm)

• Thursday, October 18 – St George
St George State School, Aussie Hotel (4pm to 7pm)

• Friday, October 19 – Roma
Roma State College, Commonwealth Hotel (4pm to 7pm)

• Saturday, October 20 – Roma
Roma Men of League Golf Day

*The Drought Relief Goodwill Tour is supported by XXXX, Vanguard Blinds, Steeden and ISC