Brad Fittler, Steve Menzies, Kezie Apps and the Hogs For The Homeless crew rode into Barraba today to support their local Rugby League club that has fallen on hard times.
The Barraba Bulldogs have enjoyed some on-field success in recent years, but are struggling due to lack of personnel willing to lace up the boots for the club.
Barraba has a population of only 1500 people, and have had to combine their first and second division sides due to lack of players.
Coaching that team is Jesse Phillips, whose passion for the Barraba Bulldogs has him working hard to desperately sign up enough players for the team to live on.
“We are doing it very tough this year, it’s at the stage where we’ve got 10 maybe 15 footballers that are over the age of 30 or 35,” Phillips says.
“We’ve just got an aging population, so we’re looking to get a few more young fellas drawn to the club and see if we can build on what we’ve got.
“At the moment we’re getting maybe five or six at training, we’re just doing it tough and that’s the way it is.
“Rugby (union) last year and the year before did it tough and we might be seeing a side of that as well.”
The Bulldogs finished second last in 2016, before Phillips coached the side to a remarkable turnaround, qualifying for a home Grand Final in which they went down to the Bundarra Bears.
A lack of young people playing the game is a major concern for Phillips and the future of the club, as they don’t want a repeat of the dramas in the late 1990’s where they had to fold.
“The group for organisation this year has changed a lot, there used to be a second division and a first division and now they’ve changed it to just one grade.
“A lot of teams around Tamworth have gone up to first grade and we’ve been stuck in reserve grade because of the aging population.
“We’re not the only team struggling.”
The Hogs For The Homeless crew joined forces with the club to host a fundraising lunch at Barraba bowling club, where many of the townspeople turned out to mingle with some Origin greats.
A large part of the crowd were young children, who were all given a football for free, which can hopefully inspire them to take up the greatest game of all in years to come.
The buzz around the town as the crew turned up was incredibly positive, something Phillips is grateful for.
“It’s great, every kid that’s in there knows about Freddy Fittler and Steve Menzies and the list goes on of famous players we’ve had here over the years,” Phillips says.
“Tommy Raudonikis came here about eight years ago when my son was only a kid and he got a photo on the Harley with him.
“If we didn’t have this sort of stuff bringing the kids and everyone to the club and supporting everything that we’ve got there wouldn’t be a membership, so it’s good to see.”
The club generously donated $300 to Father Chris Riley’s Youth Off The Street charity, with Phillips presenting the cheque to Josh Perry (pictured).