Eleven years to the day since he charged on to Parramatta Stadium alongside an array of Origin legends to raise funds for Queensland flood victims, Mark Geyer still marvels at the rugby league community’s ability to come together for a cause.
Geyer had been on holidays at Terrigal on the NSW central coast when he was first made aware of the unfolding disaster and within days he was heading north to join his Triple M colleague and former Wallaby Greg Martin to see what help could be offered.
“We went to peoples’ houses to see if we could help out and I could not believe how high the water had come,” Geyer recalls. “We went to Suncorp Stadium as well to take a look and I was in a state of shock.
“Then I got told about a young bloke by the name of Jordan Rice who had been swept away with his mother and they both died, but only after he had told rescuers to look after his brother first.
“That really hit me hard. To put a name and face to the tragedy made it real for me and when I went back to work in Sydney I told the guys at Triple M we had to do something to help.
“We had a meeting with all the bigwigs and I said we should try and use the NSW and Queensland relationship to try and get a game on with ex-players and they said, ‘we’ll give you the keys to the car, you drive it. We’ll give you anything you want’.”
As Geyer was ringing former Origin stars from both states to see if they’d be willing to dust off the boots for a charity match, devoted Dragons fan Tony Trim was desperately trying to get his hands on tickets to take his son to the match, blissfully unaware he’d finish up as much a part of the story as any Blues or Maroons great.
A grocer by trade, Trim had already banded together with colleagues to send semi-trailer loads of fresh produce to Queensland to help growers hit hard by the floods before the Origin charity match presented another opportunity to dig deep.
“All my idols were playing and I told my son Anthony I would take him along to see all the blokes from my era play but the tickets sold out in two hours on the Friday and I missed out,” recalls Trim, now 54.
“Then on the Monday I was listening to Triple M and they said anyone who phoned in and made a donation could have two tickets.
“I rang in, I got on to Mark Geyer and I said, ‘It’s Tony Trim from Trim’s Fresh, I’d like to donate $1000’ and they said, ‘We’ll send you tickets and we’ll put your name up on the scoreboard’.
“I went back to the switch and I told them I had an idea for a way they could raise some serious money if they would auction off a spot in the NSW and Queensland squads. I said ‘I’ll donate $10,000 and I’ll find you someone else to pay money for the Queensland side’ but they said they weren’t interested.
“I thought, ‘Oh well, maybe they already had that idea’, but at least I had my tickets to the game.”
We needed to help in some way and the way we helped was profoundMark Geyer
After his plan had been brushed aside by the panel operator at Triple M, Tony could scarcely believe his ears the following morning when Geyer and his Grill Team buddies announced they’d be auctioning off a spot in the teams to the highest bidder.
So Trim hit the phones on the Thursday morning and offered $3000 and he was told he’d receive a call back to tell him whether that was enough to win the coveted Blues No.17 jersey.
When that call came through, Trim was unable to take it, so he quickly called back and found himself in a live on-air auction, battling it out with another generous footy fan for the life-changing prize.
By the time the hammer fell, Trim had donated $14,600 to the Queensland flood appeal and had won himself the chance to join a Blues squad that included Geyer, Greg Alexander, David Peachey, Mark Carroll and Dragons cult hero Nathan Blacklock.
“They asked me for my jersey and shorts size and told me to be at Parramatta Stadium at 3pm,” Trim says.
“I got to the dressing room and my jersey with ‘Trim 17’ was hanging there in my locker right next to Garry Jack. I felt like a fish out of water but Mark Carroll made me welcome right from the start. He’s a champion.
“I had borrowed a pair of old shoulder pads from a mate and when I pulled them out of my bag Garry Jack smiled and said, ‘You won’t need those, it’ll be a game of touch’.
“I didn’t really think I was going to play so I left the shoulder pads in the dressing room and we headed up the tunnel and it was surreal when they announced my name.
“We were down at quarter-time and after Phil Gould had given the blokes a pep talk I went to sit down at the back again but Geyer looked over and said ‘you’re on’. I just froze.
“I was standing out on the wing calling for the ball and no one threw it to me and then all of a sudden a chip comes through from Brad Fittler and I just started running after it.
“All I was worried about was dropping it but next thing I had run past Blacklock, grabbed the ball, fell on my head and scored the try. The crowd started chanting ‘Trim, Trim, Trim’. It was unbelievable.
“The other thing I remember clearly is copping a tackle from Mat Rogers, who was still playing and was bloody fit. He put a hit on me and fractured five ribs but I played the whole game not feeling a thing. I was running on adrenalin.”
Having been front and centre in one of the game’s most legendary confrontations when he went toe to toe with Wally Lewis at the SFS in 1991, Geyer knew a thing or two about Origin passion and decided to use it as the catalyst for his fund-raising efforts.
“I had a list of ex-players and I just started ringing them and not one player said no,” Geyer said.
“We had about two weeks of hard training to get ready and I even passed up on my annual Australia Day party at a mate’s house to make sure I’d be good to go the next day.
“Parramatta Stadium gave us the venue for free and they sold $20 family tickets which meant we had a big crowd and all the money went to the flood victims.
“Even though we were 1000km away we felt the devastation and that night was such a celebration of the hidden love we have for our northern rivals and it showed when people put their mind to it they can move mountains.
“I think out of all the charity stuff I have done it’s the most satisfying because the money was going to people who really needed it.
"At the end of the game we presented a cheque for $380,000 to the Disaster Relief Fund and that was incredibly satisfying.
“Sometimes former sports people are reluctant to put their name to something because of fear of failure but everyone was in it for the right reasons.
“We have an amazing game and the rugby league I know is people helping out.
“We needed to help in some way and the way we helped was profound.”
BLUES ORIGIN LEGENDS
Garry Jack, Nathan Blacklock, Ryan Girdler, David Peachey, Eric Grothe snr, Cliff Lyons, Brett Kimmorley, Mark Carroll, Ben Elias, Mario Fenech, Luke Ricketson, Mark Geyer, Brad Fittler. Interchange: Greg Alexander, Tim Brasher, Terry Lamb, Tony Trim, Rod Wishart, Bryan Fletcher, Paul Sironen. Coach: Phil Gould.
QUEENSLAND ORIGIN LEGENDS
Robbie O'Davis, Willie Carne, Mal Meninga, Gary Belcher, Kerry Boustead, Tony Currie, Adrian Lam, Sam Backo, Kerrod Walters, Colin Scott, Gorden Tallis, Wendell Sailor, Jamie Goddard. Interchange: Mat Rogers, Mark Coyne, Jason Smith, Andrew Symonds, Kevin Campion, Robert Josifovski. Coach: Wally Lewis.