Rugby League is more than just a game.
You’ve heard that one before, right? But it is.
For every story you read about some footy player doing something regrettable on a roof or in a bathroom mirror, there are so many more stories of another player shining light into someone’s life.
Putting smiles on the faces of the ill, encouraging kids to read and learn, raising money for the less fortunate. There’s a profile that comes with being a rugby league player and when embraced in the right way, it can do a massive amount of good.
Here’s a story I know a bit about.
On the morning of September 29 2009, a magnitude 8.1 submarine earthquake struck off the coast of Samoa. To follow were four waves of devastation as the ocean surged and ripped through the heart of the island nation. Nothing stood a chance against the wall of water measuring 14 metres (46 foot) high.
Nearly 200 souls were lost as villages along the south and east coasts of the Samoan island of Upolu.
Not only were lives, homes and places of employment destroyed; the impact of the tsunami had the potential to fracture the family and community structure that is the essence of Samoan culture.
A group of Aussie surfers who had fallen in love with Samoa and its people approached Tuatagaloa Joe Annandale, high chief of a village called Poutsasi, with a dream to rebuild the tsunami-affected region and make a difference.
Less than a year ago I sat in Joe’s living room in a small house on the water’s edge in Poutasi. That stunning turquoise ocean was shimmering in the sun and lapping on the shore underneath Joe’s veranda.
Just a few years before, a wall of water had smashed through that living room, leaving only the concrete walls as a reminder that anything had been there. Joe was attempting to flee the waves with his darling wife, Tui. Unfortunately, only Joe survived.
From such sadness and devastation a charity was born. Ground Swell: a bunch of Aussie surfers and a village chief who saw tragedy and turned it into something so positive and beautiful.
Then there’s this guy called Nigel Vagana. Played a test or 38 for New Zealand. A couple for Samoa. Scored 5 tries in one game for the Bulldogs against the Bunnies. Won a few Dally M awards. Achieved a bit in his career.
He linked up with these surfers and chief and created an event: the Ground Swell Sydney Harbour Paddlle.
Grab some NRL players, Sydney celebs, surfer types and put them in some canoes on Sydney Harbour.
Then get a bunch of charitable people, put them on a boat with some more NRL players, food, entertainment and free kava.
Because when we do charity we do it well.
We’ve rebuilt Sinalei Resort to enable locals to return to work. We’ve built an arts and cultural centre, built and staffed a pre-school and are on our way to building an elite rugby league and sporting academy to provide opportunities for children across Samoa.
We’ve supported Lifeline in Samoa and were there when Mother Nature struck again during last December’s Cyclone Evan.
And we do this paddle every year.
It’s so easy to become involved. Follow us, check out what we do. Buy a ticket on our boat and drink our kava, or bid on our auctions.
Then like those footy players, you’ve done your bit of good too.