Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks donate jersey to drought appeal

TEAM SPIRIT: Armidale local radio manager Steve McMillan (holding signed jersey) with the Department of Education's Pat Cavanagh, Matt Hobbs, and Carol Green. Photo: Nicholas Fuller
TEAM SPIRIT: Armidale local radio manager Steve McMillan (holding signed jersey) with the Department of Education's Pat Cavanagh, Matt Hobbs, and Carol Green. Photo: Nicholas Fuller

Sports players have teamed up with local radio and educators to help farmers in distress.

The Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks national rugby league team donated a signed jersey and polo shirts to the NSW Department of Education, while the NRL also sent up game tickets.

More than $1000 was raised by the jersey auction.


Listeners to local radio stations 2AD and FM100.3 phoned in bids on the items with auction proceeds going to help farmers – half to buy bales, and half to pay for household expenses such as food and toiletries.

Radio manager and sports fan Steve McMillan placed the first bid of $500.

“It was a no-brainer for us,” Mr McMillan said. “Farmers are doing it tough. As a former dairy farmer, We went through two droughts while I was working there. I know what it’s like to be a kid with nothing, and having to wash in the creek.”

Mr McMillan’s radio stations reached 4000 listeners. 

“It was really good that Steve came on board,” Carol Green, the Department of Education’s Aboriginal community liaison officer, said. “He got it out to a wider audience. He got it so far afield, and we would never have been able to do that from this office. Big kudos, and thank you!”

Ms Green arranged the donation of the sports gear. She rang Jeff Hardy, from the Indigenous young men’s foundation Clontarf, who talked to the Sharks’ Chad Cleary. A week later, the tops had arrived.

“The drought has been impacting us,” Ms Green said. “Some kids aren’t attending school; some haven’t got enough food to go to school with; and they’re worrying about Mum and Dad back on the farm.

“This was a really good way of us trying to let the families know we care about you, and this is what we want to do to try and help. It’s a good outcome.”

The local schools have also rallied round farming families. The Department of Education’s head office in Sydney wanted to help the region’s farmers.

Educational leadership directors Pat Cavanagh and Matt Hobbs talked to local schools – and discovered that many principals were already doing, or about to do, something.

Schools held cake days, colour runs, and dress like a farmer days. They opened up the school so the community could do the laundry, take showers, and use toilets; extended breakfast; and subsidized excursion costs.

“There’s really a lot happening in education at the moment,” Mr Cavanagh said. “It’s really uplifting to see that. Principals are thinking cleverly about what they can do to support people through the drought. We’re really proud of it.”

"A lot of families are buying water now, because they've run out altogether,” Mr Hobbs said. “If they can buy it, they're buying it, so there's an added cost again. Not only can't they feed their stock, sometimes not feed their families, but they're having to buy water as well."

Taronga Zoo Sydney and Taronga Western Plains Zoo also provided 20 family passes, available for a year.

"In nine months, if the farmers are back on their feet a little bit, and just want time out,” Ms Green said, “then because of the support from the zoo and the Department of Education, we are able to give those family passes out."

Mr Cavanagh and Mr Hobbs will each give out 10 in their networks.

The Armidale Department of Education office has also raised $500 through donations and hamper items.

The winner of the Cronulla jersey was Alan Piddington with a bid of $1100. Of this, $550 was donated to Buy a Bale and the remaining $550 will be donated to Salvo’s.