Rugby community gets ex-footballer on his feet
FOR eight years John Franks has been suffering pain as he walks into Mundubbera using his wheelie walker; a cruel fate for a man who was once one of the North Burnett's fittest and healthiest rugby league players.
He endured four broken vertebrae from a car accident in the '80s before a work accident later in life left him with a broken hip and reliant on a walker.
When president of Fraser Coast Men of League Kev Embrey heard of Franks' struggles, he knew the organisation had to so something.
"John has done a lot for rugby league over the years and he still helps the Mundubbera Tigers by selling raffle tickets to fundraise,” Embrey said.
"I've known him his whole life and about three years ago I was in Mundubbera for a football game when he said his old wheelie walker was buggered, so we put in an application to get him a new one.
"As time passed the doctor said he was going to need a motorised scooter.”
On Saturday, December 1, Embrey, on behalf of Men of League, presented Franks with a brand new mobility scooter to get him around town.
"It was unbelievable to see, John was stuck for words, he didn't know what to say to thank us for the support and it was nice to know we could help him out,” Embrey said.
"He also volunteers at the historical society so that will help him in getting there too.”
Franks said the the scooter has already made a "marvellous” difference to his life.
"Some days I used to be able to walk up to town with my wheelie walker and not have a problem, but if I went up a couple of days in a row my legs would get quite tired and sore,” Franks said.
"The support is the biggest part that gets me.
"To know that there are people out there who really do care and they are willing to support anyone and everyone, who has been involved in league, in any way whatsoever. That's what Men of League do.”
Men of League started in 2002 by former NRL players Ron Coote, Jim Hall and Max Brown.
Coote was visiting his daughter in hospital when he ran into former St George Illawarra Dragons captain Doug McRitchie, who was in the late stages of prostate cancer.
After seeing McRitchie alone in hospital, he wondered why his team mates weren't with him or if they even knew of his illness and decided to create a support network for the rugby league community.
Franks has been a part of the rugby league community since he was a child, playing rugby league in Gayndah alongside his brother.
"My life was all about sport and rugby league,” he said.
"After we moved from Gayndah to Mundubbera, I played with the school first and then whatever rugby league I could.
"Following the physical therapy I had for the car accident I played football again, travelling to Gympie by train to play over there because they didn't have a team here at that time, but I was so keen to play and my dad was a part of the club in Gympie.”
The new scooter will help keep Franks passion alive as he said he still goes to watch the Mundubbera Tigers as often as he can.
"And some away games too when we're playing Eidsvold, Gayndah or Biggenden,” he said.
Men of League now has 30,000 members Australia wide supporting each other and Embrey said he hopes Franks' story encourages more to join.
"Because if we don't know that they're out there then we don't know if they might need help,” he said.
"Some people find hard times over the years and they might not be able to afford the things they need but we can help them out by paying their rent or rates, or donating something like the equipment John needed.”