Lifelong friendship found through the Men of League Foundation
STUCK in his South Rockhampton home, John Burrows's eyes light up when he sees 'Simo'.
Through the power of conversation, ex-NRL player and now social officer Jamie Simpson, visits John once a fortnight to talk footy and life through the Men of League Foundation.
John battled a chronic bout of food poisoning, combined with rheumatoid arthritis and was in a two-week coma. He is now wheelchair bound and crippled.
But seeing Jamie keeps him positive, almost a throwback to the good old days running about, ball in hand.
"It would be hard without Simo. I look forward to him coming every time, it makes my day," John said.
"I used to follow him when he played for the Rabbitohs. He was a good footballer and a great bloke.
"That's what I live for now, footy and my family. My wife Rose looks after me well but it is great to see Simo.
"He is my mate now and will be for a long time."
Jamie is no stranger to his own battles. Diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma, he endured chemotherapy in 2002 and beat the cancer a year later.
Wayne Bennett was one man who reached out to Jamie.
"Wayne have me a book, with a personal message 'tough time comes and goes, but tough guys last forever'. So while the Men of League as a foundation wasn't there, the rugby league community was to help me through," he said.
"John has been a lifelong fan of mine and now I'm a fan of his. Seeing what he has been through and how he is still positive. He is the real role model to the community.
"Coming here brightens up my day. We always talk about footy which I can't complain, I can't do it at home as the missus tells me to shut up.
"Knowing that I can help someone is very humbling, and he helps me too. He gives me a good outlook on life and is the reason why I am around.
"Being involved in the rugby league community, you do meet people who need a hand, and Men of League can help."
Men of League care for all men, women and children in the rugby league community. It is not only the battling ex-players but anyone, the volunteers, coaches, canteen ladies.
The foundation is there to provide opportunities for members to reconnect with their friends in the game. Since 2002 $4.5million has gone to members across all levels.
For more information visit www.menofleague.com