Men of League Foundation Member #6701
Bundaberg lost one of its finest sporting identities last Thursday night with the passing of Malcolm John Breen after bravely battling illness during the last months of his life.
Not only was Mal a great competitor in his favourite sport rugby League, but he was a very successful administrator for the game he loved, having served as Chairman of the Bundaberg Rugby League from 1998 – 2012.
Mal signed up for the job nobody wanted when he took the helm of the League in 1998. The organisation owed $138,000 to a long list of creditors, and with the seats of Salter Oval Grandstand sitting vacant he took on an enormous task.
With strong support from his fellow executive and committee members (some who signed as guarantors on a bank loan to clear the debt), he led his organisation back into the black. Nobody was coming to games, the clubs were struggling, and the Juniors were in disarray. Mal was the first to comment that “It took a lot of good blokes to raise the money and get things up and running again”. To quote BRL Chairman Mike Ireland “Mal had a lot of willing workers but Mal steered the ship.”
Mal didn’t just save rugby league in the Bundaberg area but also was a great advocate to promote and grow the game, enticing Wallaroos from Maryborough, Isis (Childers), and Hervey Bay into the local competition which set it up to be the success it is currently.
Mal Breen, or ‘Breeny’ as he was popularly known, had a distinguished career as both player and coach throughout his career having played first grade with Norths Devils in Brisbane in 1964. In 1968 he returned to his hometown Bundaberg where he played for Wanderers. He then tried his hand at coaching and was player/coach for Wests Mackay 1971, Bundy Past Brothers 1972, Goondiwindi 1973, and Hervey Bay in 1974 when he guided the team to a maiden premiership in the Maryborough competition. Mal retired as a player in 1975, and in 1976 took on the President’s role at Wanderers Club in Bundaberg.
Mal’s legacy has continued with current Bundaberg Rugby League Chairman Mike Ireland continuing the good work by providing the strong leadership he inherited to make rugby league the number one sport in the district for patrons and supporters. Breeny, the man who loved this great game stepped down in 2013 but ensured his League had great facilities at Salter Oval, the home of rugby league in Bundaberg.
I am sure all rugby league supporters who knew Malcolm John Breen send their condolences to his beloved wife Shane, children Damien, Stacey, and Scott and his seven grandchildren whom he loved dearly.
Rest in Peace, Malcolm John Breen.