NRL stars Valentine Holmes, Michael Lichaa and Shaun Lane have urged the rugby league community to rally behind the Unite for Kurt Round this weekend, a fundraising initiative for their good friend and former teammate Kurt Drysdale, who suffered a serious neck injury in June.
The VB NSW Cup, Ron Massey Cup, Sydney Shield competitions and greater New South Wales Rugby League family, including the Cronulla Sharks, will “Unite for Kurt” across this weekend (15-16 August) and beyond, with monies raised going directly to cater for Kurt’s ongoing care.
Kurt, a Sharks district junior and former Endeavour High School student, who turned 21 just over a week ago, is in the Royal North Shore Hospital, paralysed from the neck down after he was injured playing for Cabramatta in the Sydney Shield.
Cabramatta players will wear specially-designed Unite for Kurt jerseys during their Ron Massey Cup and Sydney Shield matches at New Era Stadium on Saturday, with players’ jerseys to be sold for $250 each with proceeds going directly to Kurt.
Kurt’s Dad, Steven, and his sister Skye, 27, will attend the Cabramatta matches this weekend.
“I haven’t gone out of my way to watch rugby league since the accident but Kurt still loves the game and watches as many games as he can over the weekend as well as old Endeavour school games he played in,” Steven said.
Steven and his wife Sonya, who can spend two to three hours a day travelling from their home at Stanwell Park (Illawarra region) to be with him at the hospital in Sydney’s lower north shore, said they are overwhelmed by the support they have received from the rugby league community, family, friends and even complete strangers across Australia and overseas.
“It’s hard to keep up. There is so much going on… it’s overwhelming,” Steven said. “We are really appreciative of the support we have received and for events like the Unite for Kurt Round this weekend.”
Steven said Kurt has made some positive progress but is still not able to breathe without assistance.
Kurt’s former Sharks under-20 team-mates and current NRL players - Valentine Holmes (Sharks) and Shaun Lane and Michael Lichaa (Bulldogs) - said it was great to see the rugby league community and the general public get behind Kurt and his family.
“It’ll mean a lot to see everyone get behind him – every little bit of support he can get will mean the world,” said Holmes.
“Hopefully at our home game on Monday night the whole Shire can get behind the Unite for Kurt fundraising effort and help us to a win – I know he’d like that.”
Close friend Shaun Lane said it was great to see the rugby league community and the general public get behind Kurt and his family.
“I first met Kurt in school rep footy when I was 11, and we went to the same high school at Endeavour and I played with him there in the junior reps at Cronulla,” Lane said.
“I was with him most afternoons, he’s one of my best mates. He’s a great bloke, a really rare person nowadays who’s so kind-hearted and selfless – no-one would ever say a bad word about him. It’s a very sad thing what’s happened to him.
“I know he and his family are very happy with everyone getting behind him and all the fundraising from the rugby league community and the general public – they really appreciate it and are very grateful.”
Another former team-mate in Lichaa has called on the entire rugby league community to get behind his mate.
“It’s pretty tragic what happened to him but hopefully everyone can get behind him through the Unite for Kurt Round and support him and his family as best as possible,” Lichaa said.
“Hopefully we can get a smile on his face.
“The Cabra jersey, it’s a cool design, I hope he likes it and I hope the boys who wear it on the weekend go out and do him proud.”
In addition to NSWRL competitions’ Unite for Kurt Round where clubs hosting matches will support the cause through gold-coin entry fees, match-fee donations and game-day raffles, there are many other fundraising efforts occurring in the wider rugby league community.
NRL club Cronulla Sharks are dedicating their 17 August (Monday) clash with the Storm to the Unite for Kurt fundraising effort, with ticket specials and coin collections. A host of rugby league identities including Stuart Raper, Ben Ross, Chris Quinn, Darryl Brohman, Jeff Hardy, Aaron Raper and Robbie Kearns will take part in a Heathcote to Remondis Stadium game-day walk with proceeds going directly to Kurt’s care.
The Illawarra Cutters, in conjunction with St George Illawarra Dragons, the Illawarra Division and the Illawarra Referees Association, have already completed a number of fundraising efforts including player and staff donation days, bucket collections and memorabilia items.
Wests Ashfield Leagues Club will host a fundraising dinner on Thursday, September 24, featuring Warren Smith as MC, Dave Faulkner from the Hoodoo Gurus and other special guests including Phil Gould, Jason Taylor and more. Tickets are $200 from westsashfield.com.au.
Cabramatta will also host a function later this month, with a sportsmen’s function on August 22 featuring guest speakers including NSW VB Blues coach Laurie Daley, the auctioning of memorabilia items and other drawcards.
A day later the Jim Owens Running Group, based out of Helensburgh just south of Sydney, will brand the Woronora Dam Pipeline Run in Kurt’s honour. Runners taking on the course will include Kurt’s dad and brother, Blake. Once again all money raised will go directly to Kurt’s care.
All past and future funds that are raised for Kurt Drysdale should be deposited into the following bank account:
Account Name: NEW SOUTH WALES RUGBY LEAGUE LTD - KURT DRYSDALE FUNDRAISING
Account Number: 12146604
When depositing funds into this account, please;