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wishing we’d done more

Our kids grew up, but we kept up our regular Sunday touch footy games.


At one of our games, Ricky suffered a pretty severe knee injury. I think it was in early 2016, and he stopped playing. There was talk that he wouldn’t be able to play with us again because the injury was too severe. 


Sometimes we’d see Rick at the park where we played, walking with his wife, and we’d wave to each other. But, the reality was, we’d lost contact a bit. 


Then, through word-of-mouth came the terrible news. It was a huge shock. I think we all felt really bad that we hadn’t been in touch with Rick more or been there to help when he needed it. 



Several years earlier, I’d come up with an idea to play a 12-hour touch footy game as a way of raising money. The thought of a game, in which the players would raise hourly sponsorships, came to me while I was lying in bed one night. 


The idea sort of lapsed. But, when this thing happened with Rick, one of the guys suggested we start it up again.


What really got it over the line was that, at Rick’s wake at Riverview College, the family said they didn’t want flowers, they wanted donations made to the Black Dog Institute.


It became obvious that we should do this through the 12-hour touch footy game concept. 




taking on the unacceptable

On the last Sunday of August, we’ll hold our third Hope Challenge. What I sometimes say is that Rick’s surname is serendipitous. Losing him was a terrible tragedy. Yet, his name gave us the perfect title for this event. 


I think what we’re doing is really important. It’s another little step in what’s been a healthy move towards de-stigmatising mental health issues.


Our area, West Pymble, is a high net worth area – but that means nothing. This is a problem that can affect anyone. In fact, it affects far too many people


At the first Hope Challenge, one of the parents came to me and said her 17-year-old son had lost five friends to suicide. It’s just unacceptable. But the good thing is, people are talking about the issue.


Before the first game, a bunch of us went away to Mudgee for a weekend and all the guys were sitting around talking about it. It was heartening to hear.


Across the three years of the event, we’ve had ex-rugby players Stirling Mortlock, Graeme Bond and Brad Harrison come down to support us, which has been great. Community-wise, it’s fantastic.


We had nearly 200 people join us last year, playing for a total of 488 hours during that 12 hours. It’s all ages, all sexes, all abilities. Last year, we had a five-year-old and seven-year-old playing for four hours. They loved it, had a ball. 


At the first one, we raised and donated $45,000 to Black Dog and last year we raised $25,000. What I love about Black Dog is that they use research and science to build useful programs to deal with this awful problem.



Kathy, Rick’s wife, is on our board and she’s really great. We had a meeting recently where we discussed doing some merchandising and Kathy said, ‘We shouldn’t be concentrating on this being about the black dog. We should make this a fun community day’. 


It brought us all back into line. It made us re-focus on the fact that it’s not all about misery, it’s about finding the joy in life. It’s about realising that, if you do have mental health issues, it’s not the full you. Kathy’s our moral compass.


In keeping with that celebration of life, this year we’ll have jumping castles, food stalls, face painting and other things going on. There will also be prizes and a silent auction.


The local bowling club is providing a full day of bowling, plus dinner for 25 people. And, one thing I think is really special, Parramatta Leagues Club is donating a chairman’s box at a Parra game next season.


Rick would absolutely have loved that.


Click here for more information on the Hope Challenge.


If you or someone you know needs help, please contact Lifeline or Beyond Blue.


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