It was a day that conjured much emotion. Plenty of laughter, provided mostly by that man Peard, then sometimes sadness, as we felt the Gibsons' loss. Yet an overriding sense that Fred's struggle with the dreaded motor neurone disease wasn't in vain.
An unseasonably warm winter’s day and tip-top Club Dubbo greens greeted the bowlers. Following a few ends of social bowls was a first class Club Dubbo lunch accompanied by anecdotes from one of Australian boxing's toughest - Dave "Charkey Ramon" Ballard. There were Frank Sinatra covers from dulcet tones of former NSW five-eighth Leo Toohey, Master of Ceremonies Jim Hall gave his take of "The History of Rugby League" and the hilarious John Peard, who keeps getting better and better.
Fred Gibson, the Brewarrina, Mendooran and Dubbo Macquarie hooker, was also an astute stockman and a very religious person. Fred was smiling down from heaven over the bowls day. He would've been proud of his wife Rosie, his four children and grandchildren. Proud of his football mates who all came together to raise money for the wheelchair van, so that others wouldn't be isolate like he was.
Brewarrina had no wheelchair taxis. The only time Fred left home in the twelve months before receiving the van was in a hospital to medical appointments. He died only three weeks after receiving the van but as his son Fred Junior put it, “he was so proud of that van. Just receiving it and knowing that the Men of League cared so much, meant so much to him.”
Fred’s fighting spirit was on display with footage of him shown on the big screen from the day he received the van, saying, “I don’t want it to beat me. If it’s going to fight me, it’ll be up for a hell of a fight.”
The $12,000 raised at the bowls day will ensure the van stays with Men of League so that it can be used to ensure the next member who is wheelchair bound won’t be left so isolated like Fred was. This generosity started with the board and management of Club Dubbo - they generously donated the costs of the breakfast, bowls and lunch, so that supporters of the day new that 100% of their contributions were going to the cause.
All this added to an overwhelming sense of pride in the rugby league community, that there is a fantastic support network called the Men of League Foundation. As Peard so profoundly put it: “Not since the discovery of insulin, has a single medical discovery as potently contributed to wellbeing of humanity than what is offered by mutual support groups, such as Men of League.”
The next Men of League Western Region event is on Friday 1st November, a golf day at the Dubbo Golf Club.
By Geoff Mann, Dubbo Weekender