Ten years ago the Wests Bulldogs rugby club in Brisbane was in need of some help.
The club house was run-down; filled with weeds and the odd graffiti tag.
Junior player numbers were dwindling and the Club struggled with a solution to turn this around.
The on field results told a similar concerning story – no finals football for over ten years and a premiership was a distant memory.
HSBC Volunteer of the Year nominee, Graham Brown, realised that something needed to be done.
A parent to three boys and a tireless volunteer, ‘Browny’ – as he’s known by all at Wests – began volunteering during his son’s football games.
First on the barbeque, then as coach, Graham slowly began to invest more of his own time into Wests, which lead to his nomination as Vice President and eventually President.
Graham saw the opportunities for development and was willing to drive the change that was needed.
He amalgamated the junior and senior clubs which was the first step in creating a sustainable economic future based on a one club philosophy.
The senior players quickly became mentors for the juniors; something the junior players thrived on.
Graham also began the long and time-consuming process of developing a brand new clubhouse for the entire Club and community to enjoy.
The new facility – which includes hospitality suites – has led to the employment of a number of members of the local community and has even seen the club win a ‘Keep Australia Clean’ award for the improvement of the Wests precinct.
All of this has led to a surge of support and engagement within their local community says Wests Bulldog volunteer Jo Staples.
“We’ve seen an increase in support for the club from members of the community that previously were not involved in Wests.
They come down to the ground, cheer on the boys and have a drink with everyone after the games. It’s a really good community atmosphere” she said.
Despite Graham’s achievements, he is still the first one at the ground on match day and helps whenever and however he can.
“Graham still runs the barbeque with me on Saturday mornings and is behind the bar lending a hand well into the afternoon” Jo explains.
“He spends many unseen hours ensuring the seamless running of the club during rugby season and works hard during the off season. Most members and players don’t know how much Graham does to ensure they get on the park every weekend. They would be shocked and humbled if they knew.”
The significant off-field achievements of the Wests Bulldogs finally translated into some good news on the field with their first grade team breaking their decade-long finals drought.
Although they weren’t quite able to take out the premiership, the Bulldogs feel 2017 is their year.
If you know a volunteer that in any small way shows as much club support as Graham, now is your chance to put them in the spotlight and thank them. And the best part? The recipient of the HSBC Volunteer of the Year award will win their club a $10,000 grant* from HSBC, along with a VIP experience at the prestigious John Eales Medal award ceremony, where they’ll meet some of Australia’s most respected rugby players.