The 20th anniversary of the Ronny Gibbs Sevens was attended by some of rugby league’s greatest legends – including Wendell Sailor, Nathan Merritt, Nigel Plum, Mario Fenech, David Peachey as well as Blues coaches Laurie Daley and Matt Parish.
A who’s who of rugby league converged to celebrate the 20-year milestone held in the north-west NSW outback town of Bourke, and it left an emotional impression on Gibbs and his home town.
“I’m proud of what I’ve achieved in rugby league and it shows how far you can still go from Bourke and the western area,” Gibbs said. “For Wendell, Nathan, Nigel, Mario, David, Laurie and Matt to come this far, shows the respect they have and I have earned. It means a real lot for me that they have come this far and you can see the effect it has on the community."
More than 400 kids swamped the league legends, who posed for endless photos and signed autographs for the enthralled crowd.
Named in honour of the iconic forward, the Ronny Gibbs Sevens featured 400 high-school children playing rugby league sevens and netball as part of an action-packed one-day event.
The annual tournament originally started with just four teams 20 years ago. More than 20 schools and 40 teams in rugby league and netball now take part in the huge event, startling NSWRL Development Officer Steve Hall, who never envisioned it becoming so large.
“It didn’t even cross my mind. It was just an opportunity to play rugby league," Hall said.
“There wasn’t anything to do for the kids during the week and I wanted to give them something to look forward to.”
Due to the popularity of the event, a corresponding primary-aged competition was also introduced in name of fellow home-town hero, Ricky Walford – the Ricky Walford Shield.
“I wanted to create a rugby league identity in the area, with the backing of Ricky and Ronny,” Hall said.
The Ronny Gibbs Sevens holds a special place for Gibbs and is a special opportunity for him to give something back to where he grew up.
“Burke is my hometown,” Gibbs said. “The community was doing it tough. One year, I refereed every game. I was the scorer and ball boy too.
“The tournament teaches everything, especially community harmony and respect, especially for the schools and teachers.”