A day full of rugby league history for Josh and Stephen

Two fine young men had become good friends in past months at the Royal Rehab, Ryde, where they had been since suffering critical spinal injuries through causes beyond their control.

Josh Farr, aged 21 years old, in late 2017 was involved in a single vehicle accident and after extensive surgery on his spinal injuries, resulted in him being a paraplegic whilst Stephen Ralph, aged 25 years old, suffered serious spinal injuries after slipping by a swimming pool, resulting in him becoming a quadriplegic.

Josh had played rugby league since his young days and had developed into a talented centre for the Blayney Bears Senior Rugby League Club at the time of his accident. His younger brother Lachie plays with the Newcastle Knights Under 20’s team. Josh confided to us that he followed the North Queensland Cowboys and his favourite played was, not surprisingly, Johnathan Thurston. Stephen had played some early days junior league with the respected Berowra Wallabies JRL Football Club, Sydney and was now a very keen St.George Illawarra supporter.

Northern Sydney Wellbeing Officers Norm Pounder and Ken Vessey had developed a friendship with Josh, his Mum, Allison and Stephen during their regular visits to the Royal Rehab Spinal Unit, where the two of them were undergoing rehab for several months and were both nearing the completion of their treatment. So through the assistance of Terry Williams, Historian at the NRL Heroes and Legends Museum, Moore Park, we arranged a visit to the Museum for the two of them plus Allison.

On the day there was much excitement when we picked them up for the drive to the Museum. Upon arrival, they were welcomed by Terry, plus fellow Men of League Volunteers Terry Hughes (ex-player 1967-70 Cronulla Sutherland 58 games plus the first Rothmans Medal Winner in 1968) and Dave Heptonstall, who escorted them around the Museum fully explaining the many magnificent displayed exhibits of rugby league history.

During the visit, the party were fortunate to meet Mario Fenech (highly respected ex player with South Sydney, North Sydney Bears, South Queensland Crushers and NSW – total of 276 games) and had a lengthy discussion about many matters including their individual injuries/commitment plus Mario’s playing rugby league days and today’s game to when he played.

We were also pleased to be joined by the newly appointed Men of League Foundation CEO, Stephen Lowndes, who knew Josh, Allison and Stephen from his days as CEO at Royal Rehab. The Group thoroughly enjoyed the outing and experience of being shown through the inner sanctum of the Museum, its outstanding exhibits, and were very appreciative for the opportunity.

Whilst Josh and Stephen will be leaving the Royal Rehab, Ryde in the near future, Ken Vessey will ensure their new locations are known and passed onto fellow Men of League Foundation Wellbeing Officers in those locations.
Finally, we wish Josh and Stephen continued good recovery and every success for the future plus our sincere best wishes are extended to Allison and Martin Farr, it has been a pleasure knowing you, witnessing your love and support for Josh.

By Ken Vessey, Wellbeing Coordinator – Men of League Foundation’s Northern Sydney Committee

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