Inadvertently stopping in the Bundaberg Region 10 years ago, Neil Redfern has played a pivotal role in Northern District Rugby League.
Now a decade on, and after illness, Neil will roll up his sleeves and make the final checks as he and his wife Gail are set to return to their dream of travelling Australia.
Neil wants to leave the NDRL in good hands and he hopes to find passionate people to step up to the helm and replace him as chairman and secretary.
It was during the 2013 floods when Neil and wife Gail packed up their home in New South Wales to take on the adventure of travelling Australia.
Not long into the trip the pair became stranded at Gin Gin.
Little did they realise they would make the region home and spend the next 10 years following Neil’s passion for community and rugby league as he built on the camaraderie of the local sport.
Initially they became caretakers of the Bucca Rowing Clubbefore Neil’s love for rugby league got the better of him.
“We fell in love with the work at the rowing club, the climate and the people of this great community,” Neil said.
“We get our caravan next week and we’re really keen to return to that adventure we started 10 years ago while our health can allow it.
“But I’ll still be available to help the committee to ensure it continues to succeed.”
Neil Redfern's passion for sport flows from family
The 71-year-old said he had never played rugby league himself and his passion for the sport started as a parent watching from the sidelines before he stepped up to help when his son’s club needed it more than 34 years ago.
Becoming NDRL Chairman in 2016, Neil said the competition had grown from strength to strength during the past seven years.
His efforts were awarded when he received the Queensland Rugby League V-Power Shell Volunteer of the Year award for 2021.
Neil said during the past five years the NDRL had triumphed and introduced Women’s League Tag, All Abilities and Indigenous All Stars to the competition.
“It’s been quite a journey and we’ve achieved a hell of a lot,” he said.
“I’m proud of what we have achieved; from the All Abilities through to the Indigenous All Stars, both of these are hugely successful.
“I have always tried to encourage a strong feeling of inclusiveness in the NDRL.
“We’ve had that feeling of the ‘little sibling’ sitting in between Gladstone and Bundaberg when it comes to rugby league – but the NDRL punches well above its weight!
“We formed our own identity to take the game to each of the rural communities, from Gin Gin and Avondale to South Kolan, and Miriam Vale to Agnes.
“There’s a country feeling and community spirit at each of our games.
“Everyone rolls up their sleeves to make it happen and we did each and every time.”
Striving to set the benchmark high, Neil said the NDRL competition had good structure and experience and it was supported strongly by Queensland Rugby League Wide Bay.
“We’ve got good grounding to help new executives come on board,” Neil said.
“Until we get the executives in place we can’t take that next step, but because of the enthusiasm from players and their teams I am already working on the draw.
“We have this unique competition and I think as a whole its very inspiring.
“Our clubs are looking very good – we’ve got the manpower and I think it’s set to by one of the best seasons we’ve seen.
“We just need our executives in place in order to move forward tick the boxes and get the competition rolling.”