Boggitt family thankful for Men of League
When you give your life to the game, it's only fitting that the game helps give back to you.
The story of Townsville-based Gavin Boggitt epitomises rugby league's community culture, and highlights the support networks at all levels within the greatest game on earth.
One of rugby league's grassroots legends, Boggitt has spearheaded movements in Victoria and New Zealand as one of the founding members of the Eastern Raptors, Frankston Raiders and Pakenham Eels in the Melbourne district.
His coaching work in Dunedin, on New Zealand's South Island, has helped to transform young lives and boost the game's profile in rugby union heartland.
In fact, it was a chance encounter between his group of under-18s and North Queensland Cowboys players after a 1997 pre-season game that Boggitt says was a key moment in the lives of his young men after the dejected group was denied access to Auckland Warriors players after the game.
For the better part of half a century things were travelling well for one of rugby league's true philanthropists, but the 51-year-old's tale has not played out like your regular feel-good movie.
In 2011, Boggitt sustained a life-threatening workplace injury which he is still yet to recover from five-and-a-half years later.
Not long after that, his daughter Karolyn – mother of two daughters – had passed away, leaving Boggitt and wife Debra to care for their grandchildren while also managing their own severely disabled son, Braydon.
"For the first eight or nine months [after the accident] I couldn't tell you my name most days. I was told I'd never return to work, this was five and-a-half-years ago, and I still haven't returned to full-time work," Boggitt told NRL.com.
"It's been an interesting time, we had that and then Karolyn's death, which took us all by surprise.
"With all that and looking after the kids, it makes it incredibly tough. You look at things like needing a new wheelchair or a new hoist or a new bed. The constant fights to get the things you need.
"It's a particularly tough period that I don't think anyone is conditioned to. You don't ever get over losing your child or your mother, especially as a young person."
Based in Melbourne at the time, Boggitt found strong assistance from the Men of League Foundation, which helped the family set up his move north to Townsville in January this year.
Men of League helped assist Boggitt with rent in the months leading up to his North Queensland move, and even subsidised petrol for the 2,500+ kilometre drive.
"With the Men of League in Victoria, their biggest concerns were looking after the family when we were there," he said.
"So it was finding out what our goals were and what we needed to do. One of Karolyn's wishes while she was alive was to come back up to Townsville where she and Deb had family. But she never got that opportunity, so we had to [assess], and we had no family support in Melbourne.
"There were still a lot of friends up here in Townsville from both ex-Army and Deb's uncles, so we put [a possible move to Townsville] to Men of League and they said 'okay, well what can we do to get you there?'
"What does it look like and how much is it going to cost. They put it together and paid for our removalist to get up here."
With Boggitt committing so much of his life to the sport, it is comforting to know that the game has the capacity to return the favour.
While life is still a battle for this rugby league good guy, Boggitt is working his way toward a return to full-time employment, with his medal/trophy restoration business 'Medals R Us' and work with the NRL in a grassroots coaching capacity.
Admitting his troubled situation would have greatly amplified had it not been for Men of League, Boggitt hopes to boost the foundation's connection with the Townsville community.