STORY BY: Kevin Merrigan
Sometimes, the scoreboard really doesn’t matter.
This Saturday’s clash between the Moree Bulls and Narrabri Boars will be so much bigger than just a local derby.
The day of matches will be played in recognition of mental health awareness, a topic which is close to heart for both teams.
In recent years, both Moree and Narrabri have lost community members close to the club to suicide, with the devastation felt across the region prompting action to support community members and their mental health.
Instrumental behind the hosting of the event is President of the Moree Rugby Club, David Watts, who sees the message behind this match-up as one that extends well beyond the footy field.
“It’s a day we hold pretty close to heart,” Watts said.
“Not just as a rugby club, but as a rural community, we’ve had a lot of farmers who have experienced heartache in the past with drought.
“We’re here for everyone on a day like this, we just look to do our part and start a conversation.”
After experiencing the pain suicide can bring to a club and a community a few years ago, Moree Rugby Club have looked to ensure their players are in an environment where they can speak out about their mental health.
The club has a dedicated club chaplain who works with all the boys and has been there to help them through the tough times in the past.
President of the Narrabri Rugby Club, Mick Coffey, said the rivalry of the local derby had been put to one side to shed light on bigger issues at hand.
“At the end of the day we’re just two bush footy clubs, but in a way we’re progressive in our desire to recognise, acknowledge and look after anyone with mental health issues,” Coffey said.
“We’re probably no different to any other club, these mental health issues can happen to men and women, old and young.
“It’s about changing that stigma … if someone breaks their leg on Saturday, the next day everyone is messaging them, asking if they’re alright, checking if they have insurance … but if someone doesn’t play because they say they’re not doing so well mentally, not as many people would be inclined to check in.
“It’s not about sticking your head in the sand and ignoring them, it’s about embracing them and speaking up about it.”
The game has picked up a healthy dose of sponsorship, with Australian Food & Fibre and Remote Mental Health getting on board to help elevate the message of the day.
Both clubs expect a big turn out at Weebola Oval for the day, with Coffey applauding his opposition club in the way they’ve organised everything.
“Moree run a great show and are very professional,” Coffey said.
“Whatever they have added on the mental health side of things, we know it will be well done and acknowledging of the bigger issue at hand.
“Weebole Oval is the place to be on Saturday for sure.”