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VOLUNTEERS VITAL FOR THE HEALTH OF PREMIER RUGBY

Sat, 21/05/2022, 12:27 am
Jim Tucker
by Jim Tucker
The Bennetts family have now been involved at Wests for three generations. Photo: Supplied
The Bennetts family have now been involved at Wests for three generations. Photo: Supplied

The whole Club Rugby scene would splutter to a halt without the volunteers who smooth the way every week of every season.

You don’t need National Volunteer Week to know that but it is a noteworthy time to highlight some of the unsung workers in clubland across Brisbane.

Former Club Secretary and devoted historian Anthony McDermott is an integral part of Brothers just as the Bennetts sisters, Felicity and Courtney, are at Wests.

Across town at University of Queensland, sports trainer Soraya Hammond and team manager-historian Frank McLoughlin help make the premiers hum.

At Sunnybank, Rosie Fai, team manager this year in Premier Grade, is again an indispensable part of the club.

Peter “Doubles” Daley is the patron saint of Rugby volunteers in Brisbane. He was recognised this year with an order of Australia (OAM) in the Australia Day honours list for his tireless fundraising and long-time energy for Souths and Queensland.

At Easts, you’ll find Lyn Bertini at the club every Friday. The mother of two-time premiership-winning flanker Luke Bertini has been volunteering at Tiger Town for the past 12 years.

No job is too big or small whether it’s helping to organise Ladies’ Day, stocking fridges for game day, extra hands for office filing, readying the merch area, cleaning or tidying.

The busy, well-organised tented area for corporates at GPS doesn’t just miraculously appear on game days. Marty Silec and a regular crew set up the tents, ropes, furnishings and stock the eskies for each bumper home game.

At Bond University, first grade team manager Peter Jones has been involved at the club and the Gold Coast Breakers before that for over 20 years.

Lower grade team manager team manager Chris Patterson has been at it almost as long with the important title of professional BBQ cook.

Norths stayed alive through tough times because of devoted volunteers. The club’s 1996 Rothmans Medallist Eddie Harris is still giving beyond his playing days.

Player recruitment for Colts and grades plus committee and commercial duties are all bear his stamp at the Eagles.

McDermott has been part of the furniture at Brothers since landing at the club as a lower grade prop from Mackay in 1999.

He’s been Premier Grade team manager (2009-17) across two premierships, served on the committee and made the club’s archives a passionate mission since 2005. The club has the best-kept records in Brisbane because of him.

What he loves about Brothers was summed up when a few country-based Brothers Club Presidents attended a game at Crosby Park a few years ago.

“They couldn’t believe it when they turned around to see two former Rugby Australia Presidents (Paul McLean and Tony Shaw) serving at the can bar and barbecue on the hill,” McDermott said.

“Brothers has always been that mix of Wallabies, Reds and clubmen all in together and willing to do their bit.

“The club takes you as you are and can make you a better person as well as a better footballer.”

McDermott and former team manager John Druery diligently pieced together stats and records to aid the club’s 100-Year history book, Brothers In Arms.

“The engineer in me hates gaps in data so when I started researching honour boards and lists I kept going to update and fill in blanks,” McDermott said. Through his zeal, trophies like the Epi Bola-Fatai Kefu Memorial Shield for matches between Brothers and Souths have been created.

Felicity Bennetts, a member of Wests’ first women’s premiership side in 2007, is a board member of the Bulldogs, director of women’s rugby and Premier Grade team manager. Courtney is club registrar, Colts I team manager and part of the hospitality team.

Both have been part of the club since the cradle. Parents Linda and Roger would settle their baby daughters on a sheepskin rug inside a washing basket as toddlers, tuck it behind a speaker at Wests and continue with their evenings in the 1980s.

Mother Linda’s own volunteer efforts as team physio and organiser of medical facilities for three decades earned her the first female Life Member honour at Wests.

For sports trainer Soraya Hammond, her connection with rugby at University of Queensland sprouted in 2013 when she started studies for an exercise science degree.

“I literally saw a poster on campus with UQ Rugby looking for help,” said Hammond, now a qualified physio.

“I’m still here nine years later. It’s really good fun and you feel the inclusive culture at the club with being part of a team.”

Strapping on game day and First Aid management on the field are all part of the role.

“There are the head injuries to be especially careful with but then you’ll be running on just so a player can remove an earring or necklace he’s forgotten to remove,” Hammond said.

“Some things you just can’t do anything about like running 80m upfield to a player who has received a stray kick to the balls. There’s absolutely nothing that can be done except a pat on the back.”

The life of a rugby volunteer covers every facet of the game.

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