Ex-Knights chairman Brian McGuigan offers support to Abermain-Weston Hawks after fire

HELPING HAND: Abermain-Weston Hawks President Ray Foster with former Newcastle Knights Chairman Brian McGuigan. Picture: Simone De Peak
HELPING HAND: Abermain-Weston Hawks President Ray Foster with former Newcastle Knights Chairman Brian McGuigan. Picture: Simone De Peak

Pokolbin-based ex chairman of the Newcastle Knights Brian McGuigan has offered to do all he can to help the Abermain-Weston Hawks after their clubhouse was destroyed by fire.

Mr McGuigan was contacted by the Advertiser last week and, upon hearing the plight of the embattled club, was quick to offer in-principle support to keep the club afloat.

He said that he was eager to sit down with representatives of the club, including President Ray Foster, to see what could be done.

“I really want to give these guys a hand,” he said. “It’s just terrible what’s happened.

“I want to have a sit down and work out a program – to see what I can do to help out.”

Mr Foster said he was over the moon with the in-principle support shown by Mr McGuigan.

“It’s just a fantastic result,” he said.

“The local community and the rugby league fraternity are always very quick to jump in and help out when someone is down and out.”

Mr McGuigan got the ball rolling immediately on Tuesday, putting a call in to current Newcastle Knights CEO Phil Gardner asking if the club could reimburse a number of signed Knights balls that were lost in the fire.

Mr Gardner said that he would be more than happy to indulge Mr McGuigan’s request.

Further, the former Chief Executive of Australian Rugby League John Quayle has also offered to do what he can to help the club.

In a case of “it’s a small world”, Mr Quayle was coached as an 18-year-old by Mr Foster’s brother Bernie in Manilla, New South Wales.

Mr Foster said he decided to touch base with Mr Quayle to see if there was anything he could do.

“I thought, I’ll give John a ring, he knows a few people,” Mr Foster said.

Mr Foster added that the former Knights board member said that he would be willing to do what he could and instructed Mr Foster to formalise a request for assistance in a letter that he would forward to appropriate parties.

After qualifying for the grand final on Saturday, August 25, the club was left heartbroken when its clubhouse was destroyed by a deliberately-lit fire the following Monday night.

It started in five plastic bins, but quickly spread to the clubhouse causing an estimated $20,000 in damage.

The blaze took Fire and Rescue crews from Abermain, Kurri Kurri, Kearsley and Cessnock more than four hours to bring under control.

The building has since been cordoned off as a crime scene and Hunter Valley police are investigating the circumstances leading to the fire.

While the building, owned by Cessnock Council, is insured, the contents unfortunately were not as a string of break-ins at the ground over the last few years had seen insurance premiums rise out of the affordability range of the club.

The Hawk's Clubhouse was decimated by a deliberately-lit fire. Picture: Fire + Rescue NSW Station 344 Kearsley

The Hawk's Clubhouse was decimated by a deliberately-lit fire. Picture: Fire + Rescue NSW Station 344 Kearsley

Tragically, Mr Foster said the club lost virtually all of its equipment including line markers, tackling bags, and canteen equipment like pie urns, deep fryers and fridges.

“We lost virtually everything – jerseys, line markers, all of our medical gear,” he said. “The firies said that there was absolutely nothing left.

“We were on a high on the Saturday and by Monday it all changed when this happened. 

“It was just heartbreaking, but to see the support starting to come in is really great.”

Mr Foster added that there were plans in the works to hold a fundraising event at Hotel Denman in coming weeks.

He added that he looked forward to meeting with Mr McGuigan at the earliest opportunity and thanked him for his support.

“Anytime Brian wants to get in contact I would be more than happy to sit down to see what can be done,” he said.

Local clubs have also come on board, including Kurri and Kearsley who both pledged equipment to help the team train in the lead up to their grand final at Raymond Terrace this weekend.