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Volunteer helps ensure a bright future ahead for Atherton juniors

The future is looking bright for the Atherton Junior Rugby League club, who have been successful in receiving a community fund grant to go towards powering their solar panels which will light up their fields for trainings and game nights.

The club recently received an Ergon-Energex Community Fund Grant valued at $5000 to bring their project to life, thanks to the help of Darren Hughes, who volunteers as the club’s grant co-ordinator.

Living each day with mitochondrial myopathy, a type of mitochondrial disease, Hughes has previously been featured on the QRL website for his contributions to the club and the wider region.

Hughes has been helping out with writing grants since he lapsed into a coma in November 2012, where he was comatose for two months, before contracting sepsis and pneumococcal pneumonia, and suffering kidney failure. He eventually received his diagnosis of adult onset mitochondrial myopathy.

Darren Hughes in younger years, playing for the first Australia American football team. Photo: supplied by Darren Hughes
Darren Hughes in younger years, playing for the first Australia American football team. Photo: supplied by Darren Hughes

The former athlete, who grew up in Mackay playing both rugby league and rugby union, studied up on how to best write and apply for grants during his dialysis treatments, and was pleased to know his submission was successful and would be put to good use for the children who play at the club.

“I only viewed this Ergon-Energex Community Fund Grant Round just about a week before it closed, and as I had no other grants in the pipeline, I thought I’d throw my hat in the ring,” Hughes said.

“The solar panels will  assist the club in harnessing the sun’s energy; storing this in batteries then utilising this energy when we train on Tuesday and Thursday evenings.

“It will also help us hold our fixtures on Friday evenings, and the club can save money by using this renewable energy.”

Atherton Junior Rugby League club vice president Barry Dikes said the grant would go a long way to help minimise costs for the club and to help get more players on the training paddock.

“We haven’t managed to have a game under those lights as yet, but usually, we do use them an awful lot for training, and with these new restrictions that are going to be imposed; its going to be absolutely fantastic to be able to offset the costs of those lights,” Dikes said.

“We may need to train for a three-hour stint (to get everyone involved safely); instead of an hour-and-a-half coming up into the future.

“The plan is to try and have night games; originally this year was the plan ... and we are still really hopeful that we can get some kind of competition going up here.

“One of the scenarios was we may play some Friday night stuff, so it is excellent we have got that grant and we can offset some of that cost.

“I am actually the president of the Eacham Junior Rugby League, as well as the vice president for Atherton ... and we are all optimistic that we can continue (to play rugby league) in some fashion at this time.

“We have a bit of a plan in place, but we have to take it to our coaches and our parents first.

“But, if everything is positive and everyone understands what the new restrictions will mean for them, we may be able to go ahead in some form.”

Atherton Juniors with players from Cairns after a game. Photo: Atherton JRL Facebook
Atherton Juniors with players from Cairns after a game. Photo: Atherton JRL Facebook

For Hughes, whose son played with the club as a junior, having played a key part in helping the current crop of young players training and play under lights was a bonus.

“I was very fortunate to have trained under floodlights when I myself was a junior, I wish the same for All the kids at Atherton Juniors, not just my son,” Hughes said.

“It will enhance the lives of our juniors coming through the system and let them experience it as if they were in the big time playing.

“I did it, so why shouldn’t Atherton Juniors?”

In more good news for the club, the seniors have been gifted a set of jerseys from their NRL namesakes, with the Sydney Roosters donating their NRL Nines jerseys as a show of support.

The NRL side had originally lent the North Queensland club their kit when they found out their 2020 jerseys would not arrive in time for the season, due to COVID-19 complications. 

Read more at the Atherton Roosters Facebook page.