Warren Thompson is one of many foundation volunteers who readily make themselves available to assist and comfort those in need of support. He spent some time with Kate Cornish.
Over lunch in the Queen Victoria Building in Sydney, on a hot November afternoon, I had the pleasure of meeting one of the best Men of League Foundation volunteers, Warren Thompson.
Like so many other days of the week in his volunteer roles, Warren gave up his time to sit with me and share some stories about the wellbeing visits, why he loves what he does and how proud he is of the Foundation that has him listed as member #209.
Warren was playing first-grade for St George when his career was cut short by a neck injury suffered during the first round of the 1971 season. He had previously represented South Sydney and North Sydney from 1963-69.
His ties with the rugby league community are as strong now as they were then.
He refers to his old teammates and fellow players as “family” and it is not hard to understand why Warren is so passionate about the role he plays for Men of League Foundation.
While the Foundation supports the whole rugby league community, there are many wellbeing visits to old friends from a time in his life that he remembers fondly.
“There were some great memories and stories,” he said, “we had a lot of fun Incredibly proud of the organisation that was formed in 2002, Warren says it is the volunteers who are “the lucky ones” because making a difference to the life of someone in the rugby league family who has fallen on hard times is something that is engrained in the fibre and culture of league.
He was there the night the Foundation was formed 17 years ago at NSW Leagues Club and sees his role within the organisation as one that can help empower people and give them hope.
While each visit is different, he always leaves knowing that the recipient and their family members have been touched in a positive way.
He also spoke of his delight with the changes and development the Foundation has enjoyed since its inception and credits a professional outlook towards all the organisation does as their recipe for continued growth and success.
As seems to be the case with any Foundation volunteer I have met, there was a genuine sincerity about Warren, one of the many qualities that make him perfect to be commissioned for wellbeing visits. Unaware of the impact he makes in the lives of others, he happily regaled me with stories of visits that afternoon.
Like the time he visited a former league official in intensive care. Along with former Australian representative, John Peard, who also has a wonderful ability to make others smile, Warren was told later by nurses that they had never “heard laughter like that” come from the intensive care ward.
Sadly, Warren found out the next day the man they had visited had passed away.
However, always able to find a positive in that he had been glad to share in a moment of someone’s life made it a little better and he was comforted knowing he had been able to watch as the family also benefitted from that special time together.
And he is happy being prolific in his visits and living up to promises to lend a hand whenever he can. ‘If you make an appointment to see someone, you keep it,” Warren said. “Sometimes it is the only thing that they have to look forward to.”
While it may seem like a lot of responsibility to have the happiness of other people resting on your shoulders, Warren doesn’t mind in the least. It is not a burden to him; he says it is his “very good fortune” to be able to assist people as a representative of Men of League Foundation.
It is this sort of attitude that NSW state manager Bruce Walker is so proud of when he talks about the Foundation’s volunteers. I caught up with him a few months ago and he could not reiterate enough how essential they are to the existence of the Foundation.
And while volunteers like Warren do not need any accolades nor ask any recognition for the part they play; it is important they understand just how integral they are.
Warren has a schedule busy enough to make most people’s heads spin, for someone who is retired, fulltime work would be, well, less work!
As well as being busy with his Men of League Foundation duties, he is also vice-president of Autism Community Network (ACN) NSW and could not hide his smile when he spoke about his 19-year-old grandson Rhys, who he describes as his ‘best mate’.
Rhys lives with autism and Warren was excited to tell me about the network and the huge role it plays in the life of his grandson.
ACN is a charity focused on supporting and enriching the lives of people with autism. There are over 1600 families connected via the network and they work hard to ensure that people with autism and their families can all lead rewarding lives.
Rhys has been nominated for a St George community award as a young achiever of the year for the work he does with the ACN. It is an incredible achievement for a young man determined to live his best life, and Warren could not be prouder.
The selfless time Warren Thompson devotes to others is a testament to the fine man he is.
A family man with a big heart, he has some fantastic rugby league stories topped off with a great sense of humour; it is not hard to understand why he is valued so highly within the Men of League Foundation community.