Mates get together to help community

GARRY O'Donnell can talk rugby league for hours.

From the great games to the great players; he can speak from experience having been involved in the Parramatta junior representative scene for more than 20 years.

It made a good fit then when he used to visit his dad in the nursing home — there was only one thing the guys wanted to know about.

"All these fellas used to come up to me and ask what was happening in the football.

"They loved their football," O'Donnell said.

"The problem was there was nothing out in the west for them and there were no facilities for someone to come out to talk to them on a more permanent basis."

Enter the Men of League western Sydney branch.

O'Donnell is the inaugural president of the branch that began earlier this year.

Last week they held their first function at the Coolibah Hotel in Merrylands.

The sold-out Sportsman's lunch was attended by former Easts, St George and Parramatta legend John Peard who was helped by the Men of League Foundation after a severe stroke 10 years ago left him with no control over his left arm and limited movement in his left leg.

Patrons Peter Wynn and Bob O'Reilly were also in attendance as were a number of former NRL stars.

O'Donnell said the goal of the western Sydney branch was simple: to help the people of the community.

"It doesn't matter if it is the old footy player or the young kid playing in the under-5s or the lady in the canteen: our goal is to help people in league who have fallen on hard times or in need in western Sydney," he said.

"The Men of League is a great organisation and for 12 months I have been thinking about starting a branch out here.

"I was amazed at the support I got and how it has taken off.

"We have a few more events planned for later in the year and hopefully the word will spread and we can continue to build."

One person who's on board is former Parramatta Eels captain Nathan Cayless.

Cayless, the vice-president of the branch, said the western Sydney branch gave the Men of League complete coverage across Sydney.

"We have great support from the four major leagues clubs — Parramatta, Guildford, Wentworthville and Cabramatta — and that is a big boost in helping us reach as many people as possible," he said.

"In the end it is all about helping out your mates."

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