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Hall of Fame forward and Men of League founder Ron Coote has spent decades helping people in and outside of the rugby league community.

Now it's Coote's turn to receive a deserved boost.

The Roosters, Rabbitohs, NSW and Australia great unfortunately lost his Lake Conjola home to bushfire last summer.

While the house is being rebuilt, Coote and his wife Robyn were unable to save countless sentimental items including keepsakes from his first-grade career in the 1960s and '70s.

It's why Carolyn Townsend, the chair of Ronald McDonald House Sydney for sick children who has worked with Coote in his almost 30-year role as patron of the charity, organised Letters to a Legend.

Townsend is calling on anyone who has met or appreciated Coote to send her letters, photos and memorabilia for the 76-year-old – most of which will be compiled in a lovely book.

Ron Coote hits it up for Easts at the SCG in the 1975 grand final win over St George.
Ron Coote hits it up for Easts at the SCG in the 1975 grand final win over St George. ©NRL Photos

"I thought we should do something special," Townsend said.

"I know back in 2012 he was inducted into Ronald McDonald House's Hall of Fame and you get this beautiful plaque.

"It started with me and a couple of board members saying, 'We should get the plaque remade', because he would have lost that in the fire.

Rabbitohs and Roosters great Ron Coote.
Rabbitohs and Roosters great Ron Coote. ©NRL Photos

"So we went about putting the wheels in motion from that. And I went, you know, he's done so much for us – can't we do something more special for him?

"He pretty much lost everything. The bricks and mortar is not what he's worried about; it's all the other stuff."

Townsend got the word out through social media in August and although the response has been solid, she wants to take it to the next level so Coote "knows how much he's adored".

"We have some memorabilia that people have given and some other pieces that have come off eBay and we've got letters," she said.

"Obviously some things, like a framed picture we've had donated, won't be able to go in the book. But the idea is the letters, the old photos, memorabilia like the old Scanlens [football] cards and things like that we've received will all go in the book."

Townsend described Coote as "such a gentleman and a top bloke", noting the compassion he shows families at Ronald McDonald House.

Helen Wood Grant, Deputy Chair of the Men of League Foundation and a family friend of Coote's, also spoke of his wonderful character.

Coote was among the founders of Men of League in 2002 and its chairman for 15 years. Via the charity he has assisted countless men, women and children within the rugby league community who have fallen on hard times with emotional and financial support.

"I call Ron our spiritual leader and even though he retired as Chair a few years ago, we created a unique position for him – Honorary President – to ensure he continues to be recognised and consulted," Wood Grant said.

"He is the heart and soul of the Men of League Foundation ... Ron is quite an extraordinary man. So often when you meet your heroes it is a disappointing experience, but Ron is the genuine article."

NRL players visit bushfire affected region

Wood Grant said the Cootes were lucky to live through the bushfire.

"Their daughter's house next door to them on their beloved property was also destroyed. What happened was cataclysmic.

"Both could easily have not survived. That was also true of dear friends and family who were there to share a joyous New Year's Eve.

"Their survival is one of the miracles of that night. The love of their many close friends and the unbreakable bond within the Coote family coupled with Ron and Robyn's strength has seen them survive the trauma.

"They and their daughter are re-building their houses and all of us who love them hope they can also rebuild their lives with happy memories there."

Panthers stars lift spirits on visit to bushfire-affected Bemboka

Thanks to Letters to a Legend, Coote may be able to relive great memories of the past. But he doesn't yet know of the campaign.

"Although I'm sure he probably reads ... But I thought even if he finds out this way it's still going to be super special," Townsend said.

"From Ronald McDonald House's point of view, to have a patron who has been this absolute legend but is also such a humble, caring, compassionate person – that means everything to us."

Email to get involved in this worthy cause.


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