Brewarrina has the lowest life expectancy for males in the whole state, so to go out there and play in a game like that with the men and boys from the local community was very rewarding.
Picture above Sean Gordon, David Peachey and Ashley Gordon (NSW Aboriginal Safe Gambling Services manager) the Googars “golden oldies” reunion in Brewarrina.
FORMER Knights winger Ashley Gordon hopes a rugby league game he played in Brewarrina last weekend becomes an annual event to motivate the men from the mostly Aboriginal community in his one-time home town.
Gordon and former Cronulla and NSW fullback David Peachey were the star attractions at the Googars “golden oldies” reunion match at Geoff New Oval on Sunday as Brewarrina’s 150th birthday celebrations reached their climax.
“Googar” is Koori for goanna.
The eight-day “Be in Bre” festival was a one-off for the town’s sesquicentenary, but Gordon, the first player the Knights signed for their inaugural premiership season in 1988, wants to go back to Brewarrina next year and build a tradition.
“It was the highlight of the week for the whole town,” Gordon said.
“Brewarrina has the lowest life expectancy for males in the whole state, so to go out there and play in a game like that with the men and boys from the local community was very rewarding.
“It was very emotional for a lot of players who used to live there and went back and played, and Dave Peachey was in town by coincidence so he came and had a run too, and he loved it.”
As the NSW Aboriginal Safe Gambling Services manager, and a researcher in the same field for Southern Cross University, Gordon is passionate about helping indigenous Australians make better life choices.
The 44-year-old, who was the 1990 Dally M winger of the year, has maintained his fitness long after retiring as a professional rugby league player but said he was disheartened to see men younger than him unable to play on Sunday due to poor health.
Gordon said he was not born in Brewarrina but lived in the north-western NSW town for 10 years before moving to Newcastle as a teenager.
“There were festivities on all week – carnivals, rodeos, a ball, street parades – to celebrate 150 years of Brewarrina’s existence, so the focus was back to Bre,” Gordon said.
“I arranged for jerseys, shorts and socks for 40 players, so everyone looked a million dollars, and we acknowledged some of the community’s elders on the day.
“One of them was Charlie King, who I used to watch as a kid and he was a brilliant player – an absolute legend – and he kicked off for us.
“Brewarrina is a community that needs some positive role models, and the thing I took from it was there were so many people my age and younger who couldn’t play, because of their health.
“A lot of them said to me after the game that they’d love to play, and if we put it on again they’d get fit so they can play. So it was a one-off, but everyone wants to play again next year.
“Towards the end of the game, we brought on some of the young kids to play with us and they thought that was great.”
Gordon hoped other regional towns followed Brewarinna’s example and organised similar games.
“I’d like to see some other communities pick up the ball and run with it, because rugby league is so important to those remote areas out there. Out bush, it’s the number one sport by a mile, and that’s why we had such a huge crowd and everyone was supporting it,” he said.
“That’s why the boys who weren’t healthy enough to play this year want to play next year.
“It was a pretty hot day out there, and the boys were dropping like flies by the end of it, but everyone loved it – the players and the spectators – so we want to make it happen every year.”