The Gooloogong Cowboys have taken out the Gary Smith Memorial Challenge for a second time.
In a final match that went down to the wire they were able to snatch victory from Burrangong in the last minute with an intercept try bringing the final score to 32-24.
Organiser of the memorial challenge and Gooloogong player, Danny Millar said the day couldn’t have gone any better.
“As I saw the people as they were driving in, I couldn’t have been happier,” he said.
“It looks like in notes alone we raised $7880, we already had $5200 in the bank so along with all the gold coin donations we have to count we are going to be over our $10,000 target.
“It was a big day for all of us, we had around 600 to 650 people through the gate, I’ve just been so excited everything went so well,” he said.
Mr Millar said the quality of football on display was amazing.
“The way we played it the first games were very competitive, but not over competitively,” he said.
“Canowindra had some injuries during their match so a few of our guys jumped over and played for them and vice versa.
“In the final game we even had two Cowra guys jump into our side and have a run just to play footy. I’ve had a lot of feedback, lots of guys have said it was a really good day.
“A big thanks to all the community that turned up, the Men of League members, the players and the committee, they’ve all done really well,” he said.
Men of League Foundation New South Wales State Manager Bruce Walker took part in the day, bringing former players along as part of the foundation’s Tackling the Drought tour.
“The Tackling the Drought initiative was kick-started by former Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs and South Sydney Rabbitohs forward Joe Thomas,” he said.
“He came out to the country and didn't realize how devastating the drought was so when he got back from that trip, he came to us saying we need to do something to go out to the bush and show the rugby league family in the country that the city hasn’t forgotten them,” he said
Mr Walker said the purpose of the tour was to provide emotional support to drought stricken communities and let community members know there were pathways available to them through Men of League.
“This tour is about the emotional support of the community and letting people know if they feel they need some help, they can come to us,” he said.
“We’ve had five bus loads of ex-footballers to go out to regional NSW with the objective to connect with members of the rugby league family in the bush, to provide financial and emotional support for members of the rugby league family.
“We want them to know that a support network is out there. If people need some help, contact Men of League and we can refer you to other pathways for support,” he said.
Mr Walker said the Garry Smith Memorial Challenge Cup was an interesting initiative.
“I found out about the memorial challenge in 2016 when Danny contacted me about the first challenge cup,” he said.
“The funds that were raised then were donated to the Men of League Foundation, that’s how I became involved.
“It’s been good that the 2018 challenge has coincided with our tour.
“It was a great day and it’s great to see the funds raised get divided between us and drought relief, it’s a great initiative and a worthy cause. You can tell by the football played how the challenge has influenced the day,” he said.
Mr Walker thanked all the players and members of the Men of League Foundation who had taken part in the tour.
“It’s been engaging, we’ve had a lot of interactions with the communities we’ve visited,” he said.
“I really appreciate all the help the guys who came on the tour are giving us, all the time catching up on the bus has been a mini reunion.
“We also had a lot of NRL clubs donate merchandise to give away to kids and adults, that’s been really rewarding seeing the smile on kids and parents’ faces when they have been presented with something. So a big thanks to them,” he said.
Mr Walker encouraged anyone in need of emotional or financial assistance to contact their local Men of League committee.
In the other matches played on the day Cargo defeated Cowra in the league tag match and Cowra beat Canowindra in the consolation match.
The matches were played in memory of Clint Slockee, Tim Kennedy, Johnny Ryan, Garry “Fox” Smith, Brendan “Nugget” Kennedy, Robert “Bob” Noble and Malcolm Ball.