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'Our community get behind us 100 per cent of the time'

The township of Barcaldine - located 520 kilometres west of Rockhampton - is entrenched with history.

The birthplace of the Australian Labor Party, the population of just over 1500 people is continually supported by major agricultural industries such as sheep and beef cattle.

It is also home to the Barcaldine Sandgoannas, who have been named this year's Queensland Rugby League XXXX Community Club of the Year.

The club is an integral institution of the Central West region that supports the local area as much as they support them.

The bond the junior and senior clubs have with their local Outback community to keep the rugby league flame alight is one that is quite special, according to former player and now junior coach Mark Wren.

"The reason our club is so strong is because our community gets behind us 100 per cent of the time," Wren said.

"When we lost one of young players recently, the entire Central West community got behind the family and our club to support them through a very tough time.

"That's what the Barcaldine club and community do.

"It’s very overwhelming [to be named the XXXX Community Club of the Year]. It's not something anyone from the club expected.

"For us, it’s pretty special to get that acknowledgement and it's a massive thing for the whole town."

There's plenty of support for the Barcaldine Sandgoannas.
There's plenty of support for the Barcaldine Sandgoannas.

In 2021 alone, the club has raised more than $20,000 for local charities; especially for Western Breast and the Jenny Locke Group, who help local families needing assistance with travelling for medial treatment and other areas of concern in financial hard times.

In previous years at their annual Ladies Day, the club has also raised funds for the Royal Flying Doctor Service, Outback Futures and Barcaldine Aged Care.

"The Ladies Day is something that happens every year. But there’s also so many other things the club donates to every year," Wren said.

"We hardly fundraise for ourselves – just enough to keep the club afloat.

"Most of the money that gets raised goes to different charities around the place – whether that be juniors and seniors, everyone chips in to raise as much money as possible for the community.

"If we ever have an event whether it is a fundraiser or just a standard fixture game of football. We know this entire town is backing us all the way, travelling to away games as well as supporting us at home."

Given the small population of the town and the Central West, the Sandgoannas also continually support their older junior players who make the 600 kilometre plus return journey each week to play in the Central Highlands competition.

Barcaldine Sandgoannas juniors.
Barcaldine Sandgoannas juniors.

"Unfortunately, we don’t have enough player numbers to run a Central West competition for the older junior age groups, so they travel to the Central Highlands in order to play a game of football each week," Wren said.

"It’s a massive commitment from the kids to keep going back and forth and the parents who are taking the buses with the majority of the kids. They look after the kids, they camp overnight and they stay with them all.

"It’s all these people that make this club so great to be a part of.

In 2019, the Sandgoannas lost one of their own; a champion of the club who sadly passed away tragically and suddenly, providing an inspiration for the Barcaldine legend's legacy to be carried on.

The late great Brad Mutton.
The late great Brad Mutton.

"Brad Mutton was not only our president but a friend to every committee member and player in our club," Wren said.

"He went out of his way to make sure everyone in the club was looked after and treated as equals. He put everyone else before himself and will remain one of the most remembered members of our club.

"He is the main reason why I wanted to help join the juniors and seniors together. It's one thing he was pushing for was trying to combine the two clubs because without juniors, we don’t have seniors.

"Mutto was unbelievable – the amount of work he put into the club was outstanding.

"He can’t be replaced."

All in all, Wren believed the community support is the sole reason for the club's success through its entire 102 year history and attributed the state acknowledgement to the people of Barcaldine.

"I think the biggest thing for Barcy and I saw it at our 100-year celebration in 2019... everyone is proud of the town and being part of the Sandgoannas," Wren said.

"So many people who were involved in the club previously all came back to celebrate our 100 years. People who our age wouldn't even know about came back.

"It was so good to see all that happen and everyone in the community get behind an event like that.

"It blew my mind to tell you the truth and I think we are able to bring the community together.

"When we were in grand finals, every small business decorated their shop fronts and seeing banner sin the main street and out on game day at the grand final and running onto that field wasn’t just for you… you were for the whole town.

"I feel like there are so many people that have got this club to where it is today and this award is such a great way to show them all that the work they do doesn’t go unnoticed."

 

Viv Johnson, still to this day donates on a weekly basis to both Senior and Junior Sandgoannas Clubs. So today, we snuck...

Posted by Barcaldine Sandgoannas on Saturday, June 12, 2021

Receiving a $2000 prize pack from XXXX to reward the hard-working volunteers who make the mighty Sandgoannas the force they are in the Central West, XXXX Queensland sponsorship manager Dave Bruhn said it's clubs like Barcaldine that made them proud to partner with community rugby league.

“XXXX has proudly supported rugby league in Queensland for the last 31 years and nothing beats watching community footy in action with an ice-cold XXXX in our hand,” Bruhn said.

“The mighty Sandgoannas are a club that are a staple of the Barcaldine community, providing an opportunity for juniors and seniors to play the greatest game of all in the Central West community.

“They provide the platform for locals to unite together and enjoy a few XXXX’s at the footy whilst cheering on their team and it’s great to hear in recognition of the hometown support, they were able to raise over $20,000 for local charities.

"They also prove distance is no obstacle, driving hundreds of kilometres all for the love of rugby league.

“I’d like to raise a XXXX to all those at the Barcaldine Sandgoannas and thank them for all that they do in the Central West.”

Barcaldine is also Queensland's nomination in the NRL Community Award's Club of the Year category, which will be announced later next month.