RUGBY league players can’t cure diseases or mend broken bones, but they do have the power to make people happy.
While most people in Sydney spent their day complaining about the fickle pre-winter weather, players from the Wests Tigers spent their Tuesday morning at the Children’s Hospital in Westmead with families who were going through battles of real significance.
Tuesday’s visit was the latest in a number of club organised events across the Sydney region that has seen the Tigers go to Randwick, Concord and Campbelltown Hospitals to support patients and their families in their times of need.
Their mere presence had an almost cathartic effect on the patients before they even stepped inside the hospital, with children and their parents lining up for selfies and autographs from their favourite players.
The Tigers then visited the Starlight Room to talk to the children, play games with them and ultimately cheer them up on what was a schedule day off for the squad.
Tigers veteran Chris Lawrence said it was an honour to brighten the lives of those who need it the most; the fact that every available player was on hand to help out was a glowing endorsement of how much they care.
"There’s been a big push from the club and all the players to give back to the community as much as possible and we’ve been trying to do bits and pieces over the last couple of months and this is another step in that direction," Lawrence told NRL.com on Tuesday.
"We’ve got the entire squad here at the Children’s Hospital. We’re trying to put a smile on some kids’ faces and the parents as well.
"Obviously all the kids in here are doing it pretty tough so if we can cheer them up in any way then that’s what we’re here to do."
Lawrence said seeing what the children had gone through made the daily grind of bumps and bruises seem utterly insignificant.
"I think it puts everything into perspective," he said.
"When you go in and see what these kids are going through, I think not only the injuries you go through, but any little hurdle you go through in life is put into perspective.
"Things are never as tough as they seem when we see what these guys are going through.
"Sometimes you don’t realise the influence or impact you have on kids but when you come and see how tough they’re doing it, the fact that we’re here and can cheer them up is very humbling."
Lawrence said that visits like these had a lasting impact on the playing group.
"There was one young boy who unfortunately passed away a few months after myself and Keith Galloway saw him. That’s probably one that’s stuck with me," the Tigers vice-captain said.
"He was really struggling and probably exceeded many people’s expectations with how long he fought for. That stuck with me because it showed just how short life can be.
"If we can keep them positive and help them forget about where they are for a while then we’ve done our job."
New recruit Elijah Taylor was also on hand to lend his support in Westmead.
"It’s always good to give back to the community and this is part of Wests Tigers’ area so we’ve got to do our bit to give back to the people. It’s a good initiative from the club and all the players are keen to do it as you can see," he told NRL.com.
"Family is very important to me so to see parents with their kids going through tough times, it makes me truly appreciate what I’ve got."
According to Taylor, visits like these made him cherish everything he holds dear.
"We take a lot of things for granted in life. We tend to look at our own lives and our own struggles, but when you come to a hospital, reality sets in," he continued.
"It’s hard when you see parents and their kids go through the tough times. All we can do as players is support and encourage them.
"I’ve never been in their shoes so it can be hard to relate. If they want to talk about footy then we’ll talk about footy, but if they want to simply talk about what they’re going through then we’re here to listen. It’s probably the only time I’m happy to talk about footy outside of the game itself.
"It’s hard because when we leave the kids will still be in the same situation, so we want to make our time here count."
This article first appeared on NRL.com.