The recent flood disaster in South East Queensland and Northern New South Wales has left a trail of destruction, which has been widely documented online through social media, on TV and in newspapers.
Seeing vision of the main street of Lismore is just harrowing... a town in ruins, the millions upon millions of dollars of damage is heartbreaking to see, but new Titans recruit Aaron Booth said the photos and videos is just a very small snapshot of the absolute devastation that has wiped out some townships in the Northern Rivers district.
"Photos and everything that people are seeing just aren’t doing it justice. When you actually see it in person… the destruction is just insane," Booth said.
He returned to Mullumbimby - the small community of 3,500 people located 15 minutes north-west of Byron Bay where he grew up - at the weekend to help with the clean-up efforts, but wasn't quite prepared at what he was about to witness.
"My mum and siblings are in Brunswick and my dad is in Mullumbimby... he lost his place through it all, so I’ve been down there all weekend lending a hand, cleaning and chucking things out. It’s just a wild scene down there," Booth said.
"My dad was away and once everything got to a point where he needed to get back, the roads were closed and he didn’t get to save anything.
"He is spewing because he lost all his guitars and things. That’s what he wanted to save the most but unfortunately, he didn’t get back to salvage anything before it got too high, so his place was wiped with thigh to hip-deep water.
"It definitely hit the bed as it was sopping wet, so it was pretty high. Anything that wasn’t on the kitchen bench was gone and that was the majority of his street, but there were streets that were much worse.
"I also had one of my best mates lose his property, and his family member out on the hills hadn’t been contacted yet, so we trekked up there and dropped off food and water.
"This is just in Mullumbimby that I’m speaking about. At Ocean Shores, just off Golden Beach and everywhere… driving through, you just see destruction and I know Lismore and places further south are worse off.
"I’ve seen that area and it’s just insane to think what they’re going through and the water still hasn’t gone fully down yet. It’s a wild, wild scene and quite rattling really."
Needing all the help they can get, the Giants junior said it's been tough with government resourcing stretched thin due to the ongoing crisis across a large area, but the resilient community has come together to help each other out with the long and tedious clean-up efforts and leant on one another for support emotionally.
"The people there are so tough and everyone who is doing the clean-up work and making a difference are the community and the people. I was there for two days and there is very little authority taking control. I didn't see any government bodies," Booth said.
"There's good morale from the point of view of everyone coming together and everyone is proud of banding together like that, but it’s also sad because what they’re doing is throwing away life memories. It’s heartbreaking to see from that angle.
"At the moment, everyone is doing what they can to manage but it’s like seven to eight days in now and there’s still just so much that needs to be done.
"Obviously my family still live down there so what I can do, I’ve been trying to, and what the club is about to do is unbelievable and definitely necessary."
The Titans have committed $100,000 in an effort to help flood-ravaged communities from Logan to Lismore, in three main areas to help assist with the rebuild.
$50,000 will go to the NRL’s relief fund, which will go towards assisting grassroots footy clubs that have been hit hard. Furthermore, $10 from every ticket sold for the Gold Coast's first home game next Saturday, March 19 will go towards helping those in areas of need, as well aiding small businesses through BizRebuild.
The final donation number is expected to be exceeded should Cbus Super Stadium be packed for the double header against the Broncos (NRLW) and Warriors (NRL).
Match: Titans v Warriors
Round 2 -
Venue: Cbus Super Stadium, Gold Coast
"I spoke to Boofa (Titans general manager of football Anthony Laffranchi) last Thursday and he already assured me there were things in place and then it obviously wasn’t too much longer until the club announced what was happening and it’s amazing," Booth said.
"It’s needed, and for the club to do that is pretty special. Any other businesses and other codes who can chip in, it would be greatly appreciated because it's obviously needed.
"I know across Brissy and Sunny Coast and the whole South East Queensland as well as the Northern Rivers… it’s one big community I suppose, so the fact everyone is going to need it and what the club has done is a massive step."
Titans proud partner Village Roadshow Theme Parks has today announced they will match the $10 contribution for every ticket sold for the club's first home game on March 19 and other businesses across the Coast are also preparing to assist in the Titans' flood recovery initiative.
Gold Coast staff also made the trek to Lismore at the weekend to help with the recovery efforts and plan another trip to impacted towns in the Northern Rivers in the coming days.
Booth said it's programs like this and the connectedness and involvement within the local community that helped inspire him to return home and sign with the Titans.
"For sure... obviously the footy opportunity was the main reason to come home and I played my juniors here. I remember wearing the jersey for the first time when I was 14 or 15 when the club was only young, and it still is today," he said.
"But to come home and to see what the club is doing in the community and in that space... it’s unbelievable.
"Not only helping out with the floods but just in general. With the junior footy and across all walks of life, it’s incredible what they are doing."
Be there at Cbus Super Stadium in Round 2 for the Titans' first home game of 2022!
$10 from every ticket goes to the Titans' flood recovery - secure your seat now.