Simple act changes Illawarra great's life
This weekend's round of rugby league will have extra meaning with the NRL set to recognise one of its most important partners, the Men of League Foundation.
Since its inception in 2002, the Men of League Foundation has provided over $4,500,000 in assistance to support men, women and children from all walks of life who suffer from injury or illness, or have fallen on hard times.
With 29,000 members, 500 active volunteers and 150 events conducted annually across Australia, the organisation has developed into one of the most important institutions in the rugby league community.
Former country rugby league player Peter Thompson has had his life drastically improved by the Men of League Foundation, and says he'd do anything for them for all the help they've given him in recent times.
Mr Thompson was born in Stanmore in Sydney's inner-west, but moved to Griffith via Goulburn when he was four-years-old.
Growing up as a soccer player, he started to play rugby league at school, gradually moving up in the grades before completing the switch from the round-ball game to league because he had grown bored of the sport.
Peter started his life in rugby league on the wing, but that all changed in his second season when a one-week layoff saw him return in the forwards because the regular lock had been forced from the field with an injury of his own.
From there, he played at a number of clubs throughout the NSW south coast, as well as for the Queanbeyan Blues.
It was a career full of highlights, including being named Illawarra Player of the Year in 1973, where he admitted to turning up to the event with no expectations of winning the award.
Mr Thompson also had the honour of representing the Riverina district against a touring English squad in 1969, where, despite playing in the forwards, he never packed a single scrum in a match that saw five of the Brits sent to hospital.
He remained active after that, playing basketball and other sports while enjoying time with his growing family.
But in December, 2010, Mr Thompson lost his left leg above the knee, and three years later, had his right leg amputated below the knee after being diagnosed with leukaemia.
Unable to catch a train from his local station because of all the steps, he was approached by the Men of League Foundation to see if there was anything they could do to help his situation.
Shortly after that, MOL helped Peter with the purchase of a van with a specialised wheelchair lift to allow him and his carer, Dianne, to get to medical appointments and cheer on his grandchildren at their weekend sporting activities.
"They came around and asked if there was anything they could do," he told NRL.com.
"I told them that I had my scooter, my wheelchair and all the bits and pieces to go with it, but tongue in cheek, I mentioned the hydraulics.
"About a month later, they got back to me and told me I could have one. I was a bit taken aback with shock.
"They organised to bring a van here, they made all the adjustments, and it's been magic ever since.
"Instead of having to use a small scooter which is quite dangerous on footpaths and stuff like that, I can now take the big one with me, put it on the back of the van and watch my grandkids play rugby league and hockey.
"It gave me three quarters of my life back and I'd do anything for them."
While he mightn't be able to play the game anymore, Mr Thompson says he can still watch his grandchildren play thanks to the help provided by the Men of League; and that's something he'll never forget.
"I don't get to watch a lot of NRL anymore, but I always watch my little kids play," he said.
"I cannot thank them enough. It (the van) is there when I need it. If I need to get there, I hop in the back of the van and Dianne drives me there."
"As far as the Men of League go, I'd do anything for them. I appreciate them that much."
Thankfully, Peter's specialist has told him that his blood counts have remained steady in recent times, with the doctor saying "Whatever you're doing, keep doing it."