As a heavy downpour set in over Gloucester’s Bert Gallagher Oval ahead of its Hogs For The Homeless clinic, some of the crew became anxious that it might be cancelled.
The kids and parents arrived, saw the conditions, and cheered.
The reaction of the drought-stricken town speaks volumes of its resilience and positive attitude – traits which are perfectly reflected in the struggles of its Rugby League club. At times, Gloucester Magpies players have had little opportunity to lace on the boots recently and they weren’t going to pass up the chance to get them muddy.
“The town’s pretty good, but it does have its struggles,” Magpies Senior League Secretary Rodney Summerville tells NSWRL.com.au. “The timber industry went on us, the beef cattle went bad but has come good, the dairy industry chucked it in – it went from 70-odd dairy farmers in town back to about 12.
“But we’re a pretty hardy bunch and it’s a Rugby League town.”
Rugby League, like all areas of life, has its ups and downs in the Manning District town, but the Magpies always seem to pull through. Summerville recalls a time when the game reached a definite low point.
“I remember the year 2003 we didn’t have juniors or seniors and Saturday afternoons were very dull in the town,” Summerville says. “Come down here on a Saturday (now) when we’re playing and we can get up to 200 to 300 just for a normal home game. We always get good support.
“It goes in cycles; we (the Magpies’ Junior League) get going for a few years and then we have to stop for a few years.
“We got going again in 2014 after being out of action for about five years and that year the Hogs came through. We had two sides the following year, they came through again and we ended up with three sides. Then the year before last we went up to four sides.”
The influence of Brad Fittler and the Hogs For The Homeless crew is clear, but unfortunately the club was once again unable to field a junior side in 2017. This year, upon the sight of 51 local kids playing joyfully in the rain, there are hopes for a side at the under-9s or under-10s age group.
“Hopefully we can get at least one side out of this today,” Summerville adds. “You’ve got to start somewhere again, if we can get one or two like it would be good.
“It is a lot of hard work especially days like this – middle of the week it’s hard to get people to come. There is a time when you think ‘why do we do it’ but to see kids here today, that’s what it’s all about.”
Summerville, who has been on the Magpies’ committee almost continuously since 1991, is surrounded by other volunteers who work tirelessly to keep the club operational. The Magpies’ first grade team will still compete in the Lower Hunter comp this season, while those interested in playing at Gloucester or throughout the state can register now at NRL.com/play.