GLEN Innes Magpies took the field in Cronulla jumpers for Sunday’s Group 19 clash with Tingha in a tribute to Debbie Stapleton.
It was a fitting and moving memorial to a mother who recently lost her battle with melanoma.
Three of Debbie and Mick Stapleton’s sons have worn the Magpies’ usual black and white colours with distinction.
The Cronulla Sharks’ colours were worn because one son, Nathan, is a regular first grader with the NRL club.
Brett Stapleton was a leading try scorer for the Magpies in last year’s Group 19 premiership-winning first grade team while younger brother, Perry, is one of the leading lights in the club’s Under 16 minor league side.
He also played Under 18s on Sunday.
The Glen Innes shire district is home to 10,000 residents who have been digging deeply in recent months to support families with expensive health-related issues.
First of all, it was high school maths teacher and highly- respected former Glen Innes Elks rugby player, Mark Duggan, who required a life-saving double lung transplant.
The wait for a suitable donor and the subsequent treatment in Sydney brought a high cost.
More than $30,000 was raised to assist the family over a few weeks including some $11,000 at an ambrose golf day.
Just before Easter, nine-year-old Mia Johnson was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer.
Mia is the daughter of former Magpie great Brad Johnson and Christy, a member of the well-respected Henderson family, also with a strong attachment to rugby league.
Two weeks ago, a raffle and auction night held at The New England Club, where Brad worked as a barman before becoming a mature-aged student and a primary school teacher in the Lismore area, raised a staggering $20,600.
Signed Roosters and Bulldogs NRL jumpers each sold for $1600 on the night, with a bottle of Grange going for more than $3000.
Sunday’s crowd at Mead Park was less than expected because of the bleak weather but that didn’t stop spirited bidding for the full set of jumpers at a well-attended post-match Services Club auction.
$14,100 came from the jumper auction, with the No 18 jumper worn by Brett Stapleton being sold last for $700 to a local builder who immediately re-donated it and this time it brought $870.
Rangers Valley feedlot, where both Debbie and Mick Stapleton worked, chipped in six kilos of highest quality Wagyu grainfed beef which was auctioned for up to $145 per kilo.
In all, about $19,000 was raised including $3000 from a meat raffle held on the previous Friday at The New England Club, in conjunction with the Glen Innes Anglers Club.
Nathan Stapleton thanked the crowd for their wonderful support.
“Mum always told us ‘don’t forget where you come from’,” he said.
“Tonight shows us one part of what she meant.”
Earlier in the day, Mick Stapleton in a voice choked with emotion, said to this writer, “make sure you put in a big thank you to the community from all of the family”.
There are probably not a lot of people in Glen Innes with big wallets but what there is an abundance of is big hearts. These last few weeks is a perfect example.
And is doesn’t stop there. NRL referee David Munro, another Glen Innes boy, has arranged for a huge array of NRL memorabilia for another raffle-auction to support the Johnson family who are facing a year-long stay in Brisbane as Mia undergoes treatment.
Included are a NZ Warriors fully-signed jumper donated by the club through the efforts of Feleti Mateo and a rugby boot worn and signed by Israel Folau.