WITH the welfare of NRL players a popular topic since last week's brutal State of Origin opener, it seems timely to prise open the door of the Men of League Foundation.
As a member of the Sunshine Coast committee I was privileged this week to chair the 2014 Men of League two-day national conference on the Gold Coast. More than 100 delegates representing 34 of the 41 MOL committees, from as far away as Perth, Melbourne, Cairns and Dubbo, attended the conference.
And to confirm the respect for the MOL Foundation within the rugby league community, guest speakers included ARL Commission chairman John Grant and Kangaroos coach Tim Sheens.
Also attending were founding chairman Ron Coote, former NSW Premier John Fahey and more recently-retired ex-players Ben Ikin and Mark Gasnier, members of the MOL national board.
And with a female chief executive - Corene Straus - this is a board, and an organisation, totally inclusive of the rugby league family.
Coote, who won six premierships with the Rabbitohs and the Roosters and in 2008 was named in the Australian Team of the Century, founded the MOL in partnership with fellow ex-players Max Brown and Jim Hall in 2002.
The catalyst was learning that a former great of the game, Doug McRitchie, had been lying in a NSW regional hospital bed for months without a single visitor.
Coote's reaction was "this is not on. No-one from the rugby league family should suffer this indignity".
But MOL does not only assist former players. The most recent grant was to a six-year-old girl from Aberdeen who is awaiting a liver transplant.
Her single mum, older brother and the little girl herself each plays one form of the game. MOL has donated petrol vouchers for the regular hospital trips to Newcastle and has purchased an iPad so she can stay in touch with her school friends.
Whether it is visits to help put a smile on the affirmed, the purchase of a wheelchair or a special vehicle, the cost of a funeral or simply a bunch of flowers, MOL is there to give a helping hand to members of the rugby league family who have fallen on hard times.
But with welfare requests very much on the increase, the demands on resources - financial and human - have grown accordingly.
In simple terms, we need more support, and more members.
And we have to become self-sufficient.
Currently grants from the ARL Commission assist in supporting a wonderful admin team, but that funding has a shelf life.
Information on MOL membership is available on http://www.menofleague.com.
Fair dinkum rugby league supporters who love the game and admire its history, will not regret coming on board.
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