‘CHANGED MAN’: South Grafton Rebels player Hughie Stanley says he has turned his life around.
‘CHANGED MAN’: South Grafton Rebels player Hughie Stanley says he has turned his life around. Chris Ison Rokccapras

Divine intervention for ex-Capras player

DO YOU know what the word Bible stands for?"

I raise my eyebrows at Hughie Stanley as I search for an intelligent answer. He offers this explanation: "Basic. Instructions. Before. Leaving. Earth." It sounds logical enough to me.

It was about eight months ago that he says he found God.

"I was at work one day and a landscaping crew come up from the Gold Coast and there was this one bloke, " Stanley said.

"It's like he was alight, like he was alive. I was thinking this fella's got to be on some drugs or something. He was always happy, always says hello, always nice to people.

"About two or three weeks passed and he just walked up to me one day and said 'bro, do you believe in God?'."

From that day forth Stanley hasn't looked back. Around the same time he and his daughter learnt to read from the same books.

It hasn't always been an enlightened path for Stanley. Far from it.

At just 24, he has a wealth of rugby league experience, including a stint with the Rockhampton Leagues Club Capras in 2013-14 and a taste of NRL with Sydney Roosters, and also a wealth of life experience - some would say too much.

But he ascertains his dark days helped carve the man he is today.

"I used to go to church as a kid with my mum and her mum and her sisters," he said.

"Then pretty much the world stepped in and I went my way. I was doing bad things and I was following other people.

"God's changed me in a whole different way in how I see people, see life and help people."

On the footy field is not the only place you can expect to see the South Grafton Rebels centre on any given Sunday.

"I try to make church at 10.30am in Maclean. If I don't make it then, I'll try to get back for the night service at six."

Stanley admits he cops the odd light-hearted ribbing from teammates about his choice to follow Jesus.

But for those willing to believe, he is a role model and an inspiration.

"The boys here welcome me with open arms. Sometimes the lads have a laugh about it if me and Ian (Leota) are having a yarn about him (God).

"Stanley rates his first arrival in the Valley - as a teenager in Lower Clarence's 2009 triumph - as his first life-changing experience. It was when he met his wife.

His return in 2015, again under the leadership of Dallas Waters, has coincided with immediate success for South Grafton.

So is divine intervention at work for Rebels in 2015?

"I think so. I think it's on its way. I know there's that 'Grafton over on that side of the bridge and this is South Grafton' stuff. But I just think that what we're doing here as players and mates is actually touching people in the community."

And has finding God changed Stanley - who is serving a four-match ban for a dangerous tackle - as a footballer?

"I play pretty much the same I think. I try to respect my opposition as much as I can though. You can't underestimate someone and you can't judge them," he said.



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