The Brydens Lawyers NSW Blues knew the community at Lismore had done it tough this year after floods ravaged the region earlier this year so today they set about doing whatever they could to help – even going as far to give up the shirts off their backs.
The Blues had headed to Lismore to spread some goodwill among 1000 local teenagers from high schools and Junior Rugby League clubs across northern NSW which had been affected by the devastating wet weather in February and March.
They mingled with fans who lined the fence, took selfies, signed autographs and had a light training session while barefoot, but it was the end of the day which showed just how much the team cares about their supporters and the community in general.
Captain James Tedesco gave away his training shirt and jacket; halfback Nathan Cleary his shorts; hooker Damien Cook his training shirt and jacket; and so on; and so on. By the end, there weren’t any Blues with their entire gear left as they raced off the rain-sodden field to warm up inside.
“We all knew we were coming to Lismore for this part of the camp and the players were looking forward to it,” Blues advisor Greg Alexander said.
“It was exciting for the Blues to come here for the right reasons, just to put a smile on the kids’ faces that are here in the crowd and show Lismore they haven’t been forgotten by the rest of NSW.
“Footy is tribal so the players are proud of where they come from, and while they haven’t experienced floods like Lismore has they know what it’s like for a community to go through a tough time so they’re happy to show any support for a fellow Blues community that’s done it tough.”
The ground at Oakes Oval – the flood waters got so high that they rose three-quarters of the way up the grandstand which is impossible to imagine unless you lived through it – was still feeling the effects of the catastrophe with water and power only being restored recently.
The players also got the chance to meet Vincent Marychurch and his father-in-law Jeff Harris, who took off in their three metre tin boat at 4am to help other people who were stranded by the floods.
Almost 10 hours later, ‘Vinny with his tinny’ and Jeff had saved 50 people, prompting Tedesco today to present them with a signed jersey from the team to acknowledge their heroics.
“We were in my house moving things up expecting a flood possibly could through the floor and it came two metres through the house,” Marychurch said.
“Everything we lifted up was just in vain, it was all destroyed. Halfway through that we decided to abandon ship and our plan was just to get in the boat and get out of there.
“Then it turned into a rescue mission. You could see electricity poles through the water, it was really eerie.”
Lismore Mayor Steve Krieg said the town was still hurting after the floods that caused an estimated $350 million worth of damage to council assets and an estimated $1 billion repair bill to rebuild the broader community.
“If you could imagine a whole town in a state of depression that’s what Lismore is at the moment,” Krieg said.
“We’ve got three to five years of rebuilding ahead of us and coming here (Oakes Oval) is a classic example of what these kids are living through.
“There’s no running water, there’s no permanent power, there’s no internal walls. It’s tough.
“I’m really grateful for the boys to make the effort to come down to Lismore, it means a lot. Like I said to them in the changerooms, it’s something these kids will remember for the rest of their lives.”
Marychurch echoed those sentiments. He said the Lismore community would always be resilient but today’s visit from the Blues was the shot in the arm that many of them needed.
“These kids have come from homes where Mum and Dad don’t know what to do,” Marychurch said.
“They’re waiting to hear from insurance. Who’s going to rebuild their house? Who’s going to help them?
“To come out and put that behind you for a day is what a lot of them need.”
Click here if you would like to donate to the Lismore City Council Flood Appeal.