Northern Sydney Wellbeing Officers, Ken Vessey and Fred Jackson whilst responding to a visitation request from Paul Medd, President Upper Hunter Committee, had the pleasure to meet up with Doug Batten (Men of League Foundation Member) in Sydney where he was recovering from recent surgery.
We were fortunate to also meet Doug’s charming wife Cheryl, who joined him in his total surprise by our visit. Doug is hoping to be going home soon, with hopes that this is in time to see his Gilgandra Panthers rugby league team play in the Castlereagh Rugby League Grand Final against either the Gulgong Bull Terriers or the Dunedoo Swans.
He told us he had played for the Gilgandra Panthers in his playing days and he still followed the NRL competition as a keen South Sydney Rabbitohs supporter.
Unbeknown to Doug, he was meeting with two of the most avid supporter’s South Sydney have had in their Club’s rich history, with Fred having played for the Club in the 1960’s and Ken supporting them for over 60 years!
Needless to say, the conversation flowed on the past and current events with the Club and the time just passed by quickly. During our discussion, we accidentally ascertained that Doug was the Mayor of the Gilgandra Shire, a position he had held for the last eight years. He confessed in our countless past visits on behalf of the Men of League Foundation, we had never had the privilege to meet a Mayor before!
Gilgandra is renowned for being the origin place of many great Australians. This includes John King, a highly skilled rugby league player who entertained thousands of spectators with his playing skills whilst playing for the great St.George District Rugby League Club and the Australian Rugby League team during 1960-71. It also includes John Farragher OAM, who in 1978 whilst playing for the Penrith Rugby League Club was tragically left a quadriplegic after a scrum collapsed upon him and since that time has been an inspiration to people suffering from spinal injuries.
We naturally spoke about the impact of the drought in the Gilgandra area and Doug thanked the Australian community for the tremendous support they had generously provided to those effected by the drought.
We presented Doug with a Men of League Foundation polo shirt, as well as a signed copy of the Brad Ryder (South Sydney Club Historian) book titled, “The Rabbitohs’ Road to 21”.
Doug was very thankful for our visit, our generous gifts and wished the Men of League Foundation continued growth and success.
By Ken Vessey