The NRL will thank its most valued supporters and volunteers when it celebrates the Men of League Round.

In the week we celebrate the work of the Men of League Foundation, co-founder and chairman Ron Coote has opened up on the origins of the organisation, a foundation to support rugby league people run by rugby league people.

While visiting hospital, Coote was approached by a nurse who asked whether he could drop by and visit former St George and Kangaroos player Doug McRitchie, who was in the late stages of prostate cancer.

Already thinking of starting some sort of movement to support former players and officials in their times of need, Coote said this simple meeting encouraged him and fellow co-founders Max Brown and Jim Hall to establish Men of League.

"I went up and saw him and it was pretty sad to see this old guy in hospital who was suffering," Coote said. 

"I thought if rugby league people knew he was here, we should be able to turn up and say hello to him and try and cheer him up a bit. 

"I could remember watching him play.

"Max Brown and Jim Hall were thinking about something too, we all got together and it started from there."

Men of League's first function was held in 2002, with all advertising done simply through word of mouth. From humble beginnings, the foundation's core values were forged.

"All our friends who were rugby league supporters and people, we asked them about coming to this function so that we could talk about helping our mates," Coote said. 

"That was the whole theme of the organisation, to help those of us who were doing it a bit tough."

At that event 120 members joined, each receiving a unique membership number, with the organisation now boasting over 26,000 supporters.

Want to become a Men of League member? Support the Men of League Foundation today.