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Clubs step up amid Far North Queensland flood disaster

If you're in a position to give a helping hand, you don't think twice.

It's all hands on deck in Far North Queensland following Tropical Cyclone Jasper after up to 2000mm of rain fell in a matter of days in parts of the region in its wake, and rugby league clubs across the board have been rallying the troops to form part of the mud army.

Some of them are dealing with their own challenges - including loss of equipment, machinery and kitchen appliances - but putting it aside to be a source of comfort for their communities.

Mossman-Port Douglas Rugby League Club's clubhouse has turned temporary accommodation for four families left with nowhere else to turn as a result of the destruction.

They've occupied the second storey, clear of the devastation below where the Sharks' canteen and equipment storage has been ravaged.

A snapshot of the damage in Cairns as Brothers volunteers prepare to help the clean-up. Photo: Brothers Cairns
A snapshot of the damage in Cairns as Brothers volunteers prepare to help the clean-up. Photo: Brothers Cairns

Mossman-Port Douglas president Jason Fasano said there wasn't even a second thought to open the undamaged part of the clubhouse to people in need.

"Their houses had water up to the roof and they got rescued from there and had nowhere to go and the clubhouse is there, stay there, that's pretty much it," he said.

"You don't even think about it, you say: 'go for it guys'. When you've got kids as long as they have somewhere to sleep and feel safe, the rest you can deal with."

Unaffected club personnel have been doing all they can to get the community back on their feet, with Fasano blown away at the resilience in the town in the wake of a metre of water flowing down the main street.

"The water went up, the water's gone and we're just dealing with everything in between," he said.

The clean-up in Cairns.
The clean-up in Cairns.

"We're probably more around helping people at the moment rather than the footy club. The footy club is going to come secondary.

"We'll know more in a week or so when we get in and have good look."

Already the wider rugby league community - even fierce rivals - have offered support to the Sharks, with Brothers Innisfail sourcing two deep fryers for the kitchen to get Mossman started on their road to recovery.

"It's huge. When you get damage like this, the whole support network of rugby league comes to the forefront," Fasano said.

Further north, indigenous community Wujal Wujal was devastated - the town of just under 300 people evacuated by helicopter - after the Bloomfield River swamped homes and the local rugby league field and clubhouse. 

South of Cairns, Tully Tigers had the lower parts of their new grandstand flooded, including some storage rooms comprising fridges, freezers and footy gear.

The toll would have been much greater in years past, the new grandstand having been constructed in 2020 to replace the old grandstand - making the years spent on grant applications to secure the funding for the project well worth it.

Clean-up crews spring into action

The aid from those who can help has been widespread.

Last week, Cairns Brothers players and volunteers were delivering Christmas hampers, but on Wednesday there were 20 including A grade captain-coach Jordan Biondi-Odo armed with shovels, rakes and all sorts of cleaning gear on a bus to Holloways Beach, one of the worst-affected areas north of Cairns.

Tim Rumford (left) as part of the clean-up crew.
Tim Rumford (left) as part of the clean-up crew.

Brothers head of coaching Tim Rumford, who was among the crew, said the efforts of club personnel were a "drop in the ocean" and hoped it would help victims of the Barron River flooding in getting back to normality sooner.

“It was a real team effort and extremely humbling to see how so many people have been terribly impacted by this weather event," Rumford said.

"We had people from all across Brothers Cairns get involved – players, coaches, our hospitality staff and committee members and managers – and we just got stuck to help out were we could helping remove carpets and heavy items like fridges and freezers, just so people could get in to start cleaning.

Brothers player Jake Westmore, 10, helping out.
Brothers player Jake Westmore, 10, helping out.

"The impact of this flooding cannot be underestimated. Some people just don’t know where to begin. They’ve lost a lot of sentimental items and their homes are inhabitable.

"We are extremely fortunate that our football club and licenced venues escaped with only minor damage, so we were able to help others who weren’t so lucky in our communities."

It hadn't even stopped raining when Southern Suburbs hit social media putting their hand up on Sunday eager to help anyone who needed it, and players and volunteers responded.


As we are all aware the detriment of Jasper’s aftermath has been worse than expected. We encourage you to check on your...

Posted by Southern Suburbs Rugby League Club Inc. on Sunday, December 17, 2023

After news got around of a club member having her driveway wash away due to the flooding, A grade player Jesse Collins - the star of the club's social media campaign - was out there as quick as he could to assist.

On Thursday, dozens of players and volunteers got down and dirty as Cairns' own 'mud army' united to restore the properties on the northern beaches as best they could.

Queensland Rugby League CEO Ben Ikin said his thoughts were with those confronting the enormous challenge.

“Everyone at QRL is thinking about the people of North Queensland who have been affected by the recent floods," Ikin said.

“Head office has been kept up to date by our local staff and QRL has already started to engage with the State Government on recovery plans for our community clubs.”

Main image: A crew of volunteers from Cairns Brothers helping the flood recovery efforts in the city's northern beaches suburbs. Photo: Brothers Cairns

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