It is an enormous pleasure and honour for me to accept the invitation to be the patron of Stockman Sport.
Having been brought up on a small farm on the Darling Downs as one of ten children, I remember vividly the trials and tribulations that people on the land endure from time to time. I also remember how stoic rural people are and how they are always prepared to make the best of tough circumstances.
Sport has always played a large part of people’s lives on the land. It provides a much needed sense of community and is often the glue that helps binds people together – and helps mitigate the isolation that country people may experience – both externally and internally.
Rugby is one such sport.
It has been a major part of my life for 42 years and helps keep me engaged and connected with many tremendous people, both young and old. I hope that it will remain a significant part of my life for many years to come.
I strongly believe that the true value of sport lies not just in the arena, but in the overall experience of people coming together and enjoying together, not just a sporting spectacle – but each other’s company.
Human beings are a very social species with a strong need for connection. Sport – and rugby in particular, provides such a connection.
However, not all is equal in life and there is a vast difference between playing sport in the city and sport in the country. Our city cousins can be at training grounds within 30 minutes – whereas players in the country may travel 2 hours for training.
Games in the city are convenient – whilst games in the country can be 5 hours away.
And yet the boys and girls in the bush do it because they love it – no less so than their city counterparts who may have the comfort of convenience.
In an ever increasingly commercially competitive landscape, the pressure on Australian sports and sporting bodies such as the Australian Rugby Union and the Super Rugby Franchises to be successful on the field and financially viable off it is enormous.
The need to focus on sporting businesses such as these means that there is less time and money to be spent on and in the country.
Consequently, with less and less resources being made available to amateur sport, some country sports and country rugby in particular, is in very real danger of being disenfranchised.
It is a credit to the organizers of Stockman Sports and Stockman Rugby that they have taken it upon themselves to create domestic and international playing and travelling opportunities for rural players.
Having had the good fortune of being part of the Stockman Rugby squad that toured Ireland in 2015, I can say that the tours are every bit as good as the representative tours of old. Games are fiercely contested on the rugby field, but once done and dusted, it is time for friend and foe alike to links arms and enjoy the camaraderie that sport and rugby is famous for all over the world.
My hope is that through initiatives such as Stockman Sports, the true essence of sport will survive –so that the real benefits of Australian sport remain available to all, irrespective of the tyranny of distance.
Australian Rugby Legend