Humbling and eye-opening.
That’s how rugby league Immortal and Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga describes his recent visit to flood ravaged Lismore to hear the locals’ stories and offer them support in their hour of need.
So moved was Meninga by the plight of the victims that he left Lismore with a greater appreciation of the human spirit and the capacity for friends, neighours and even total strangers to pitch in and help.
Determined to use his standing in the game to rally support, Meninga sent a personal message to Gold Coast members and the wider rugby league community on Tuesday imploring people to get behind the club’s round two showdown with the Warriors on Saturday which will be raising funds for flood relief.
A huge Cbus Super Stadium double-header kicks off with the NRLW clash between the Titans and Broncos at 11.50am local time, followed by the Titans-Warriors NRL game at 2.00pm.
“I really believe this is more than just a game of rugby league on Saturday,” Meninga told NRL.com.
“It’s about the community and giving the community an outlet to enjoy themselves. We just want to be there for the community.
“You can’t fathom how close to death some of these people were and their stories break your heart.
“I went there just to listen and with an open heart. People were really open in the way they communicated with us and told their story around the heartbreak and hardships and how close to death they were.
“One lady told us about her neighbour who was trying to rescue his dog and he was drowning and she rang the SES and couldn’t get through so she rang Triple Zero.
“The operator could hear actually the screams for help from the neighbour and sent a boat their straight away and saved the man and his dog and her and her pets as well.
“The SES guy told her later how lucky she was because she was 500th on the list for them to get to her.”
Apart from moral support, Meninga was keen to offer something tangible to the flood affected communities, and that’s why Saturday’s clash with the Warriors at Cbus Super Stadium has become more than just another game.
Through the Titans Together program and the support of club sponsors, $20 from every ticket sold will be donated to flood relief, so Meninga hopes to see the stadium packed to the rafters.
“Our community team has been down there since day one, helping out and supporting, and now we want to do something more on Saturday,” said Meninga, who is also the Titans’ high performance senior advisor.
“That’s why I wanted to send out that plea to Titans members and the rugby league community to rally support. As a game we always step up in times of need and we want to be there for those people.
“They have lost everything, all their assets. All they have are the clothes on their back and it’s only through the generosity of the community that they can put clothes on their back.
“They need some certainty in their lives and to feel safe so they can see the path forward.
“They have a right to be angry about the lack of support early from people that are supposed to support them. It’s only through the support of their neighbours and people who came from Sydney and even Perth to help that they got through it all.
“The charitable nature of the everyday person helped them survive and now we want to play a part if we can.”