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Excitement builds for Support Squad lunch

Support Squad volunteers will be celebrated, given the chance to network and mix with some big names in rugby league at the second annual luncheon honouring their efforts.

The event on September 14 will be at Alex Surf Club at the Sunshine Coast and will feature two panel discussions focused on wellbeing and mental health.

One will be focused on Queensland Rugby League's wellbeing programs and partners, and the other featuring Brisbane Broncos development officer and former centre Jack Reed, Gold Coast Titans NRLW and Harvey Norman Queensland Maroons superstar Evania Pelite and Dolphins NRL five-eighth Anthony Milford.

QRL Central wellbeing operations manager Ryan Charles said the lunch was an opportunity to celebrate the efforts of our Support Squad members across the state.

“What we want to do is give them the opportunity to network with other support squad members first and foremost, but also give them an opportunity to network with other QRL staff, including our CEO Ben Ikin, and our special guests," Charles said.

“The first panel of guests will involve Ben Ikin, Jim Kearney from the White Cloud Foundation and Clare Clifford from Mind Challenge.

“Ben will talk about the QRL's commitment to wellbeing and how it fits into our broader strategy.

“Jim will speak about White Cloud Foundation, QRL’s tele mental health partner, about how it was formed, the work that they do and how it connects with Support Squad.

“Clare will speak about the mental health first aid courses we've had people complete this year since partnering with Mind Challenge.

“We've put roughly 100 people through the mental health first aid course through her this year, and she will also provide details of the second phase of Support Squad, which will be our level two 'wellbeing champion' course that we'll implement next year.

“In between the two panels, we're going to have QRL North wellbeing operations manager McQuilty Quirke, who most know as Coco, speak about his journey… how he bounced back and the support he leans on in what is a day-to-day challenge.”

Quirke was serving in Afghanistan when he was thrown from his vehicle after it struck an explosive device, leaving him with a shattered femur, two shattered vertebrae and a traumatic brain injury among several broken bones.

Having been brought back from the brink of death, 'Coco' has since dealt with post traumatic stress disorder, and tells the story of how he manages his mental state.

QRL North wellbeing operations manager McQuilty 'Coco' Quirke
QRL North wellbeing operations manager McQuilty 'Coco' Quirke

Charles said he looked forward to handing out the first Support Squad Champion awards, which will go to one volunteer from each QRL region who has excelled and "implemented something within their club that shines a light on mental health or wellbeing".

“To round out the lunch, we'll have our last panel which will feature Jack Reed, Evania Pelite and Anthony Milford, so a mixture of past and present players," Charles said.

“What those people will do will be basically to speak about their career and their journeys and in particular… difficult times in their careers where they've lent on support networks to get them back to a healthy state, both physically and mentally."

QRL Central wellbeing operations manager Ryan Charles
QRL Central wellbeing operations manager Ryan Charles

Charles said it was all aimed at making sure Support Squad members felt acknowledged and motivated to continue the vital work they do in their clubs and communities.

“I'm really looking forward to connecting with the Support Squad members face-to-face and having some conversations around what they were faced with in club land and how they dealt with them, but above all I'm just looking forward to celebrating them because they are volunteers," Charles said.

“It'll be nice for them to be able to sit down and have a drink, have some nice food and just reflect on what's been a hugely successful year for Support Squad.

“We went from having 60 Support Squad members stay on from last year to welcoming just under 120, so we’re growing very quickly and it’s a testament to the work they’re doing in their community.

“It's just going to be a celebration and we're all really looking forward to it.”’

Following the event, QRL wellbeing staff and a number of Support Squad members will head to Kawana Junior Rugby League Club to participate in an R U OK? Day fundraiser being run by Rugby League Sunshine Coast from 4pm.

People who wish to participate in the fundraiser, which will include a footy clinic and a Colour Blast, are being asked to register here.

Acknowledgement of Country

Queensland Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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