Raffles, royalty, rugby and more at fundraiser for Tonga

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‘It’s what you do for family’—local team Owls Rugby is going all out to help raise funds for the people of Kanokupolu in Tonga, whose village was destroyed by the Tsunami at the start of the year with a goal of raising $50,000 for the community.

“The village was wiped out by the tsunami. Houses, farmland, buildings and the Village Hall, which was the center of community life, were destroyed. When you think of how privileged we all are in Canberra, it’s the least we can do as a Club and as a rugby community, to help the people of Kanokupolu get back on their feet. The Owls are leading the effort and we would like it to be a wider Canberra effort, with everyone from across Canberra and the region getting involved,” explains Owls Secretary John Fely.

It wouldn’t be weekend footy without some delicious food helping drag you out into the winter. Head along on Saturday 9 July to watch eight of the Owls’ teams go head-to-head against the Royals from 10.30 am, whilst filling up on traditional Tongan food and a cheeky beer whilst you’re at.

“The whole fundraiser is to keep us connected and to make sure everybody that’s part of the club knows that they are supported by the club in times like this, for things that an individual or a family couldn’t do by themselves,” Owl’s club Captain Meilani Salale explains.

“I think what makes the in-person fundraising even more important is the sense of community that we are trying to champion at the moment, especially after the last couple of years we’ve had where people really haven’t been able to get around and help out.”

It’s not just food up for grabs, with a raffle taking place on the day (and the goods are better than a meat platter from your local bowlo)—the team will be raffling off some men’s team jerseys from the Brumbies, 1998 Wallabies and signed footballs. But it doesn’t just stop there, with an auction also taking place over the day.

Rare rugby memorabilia and lunch for three with Mal Meninga at a Canberra restaurant are hitting the block. For the non-footy heads, this will get you racing for a touch-down with premium product seats to the Ed Sheeran concert in Sydney in October going up for auction.

“It’s what you do for family. Tonga is part of our bigger family and I think that’s right across Canberra—we’ve got a big Tongan community here and we just wanted to reach out and look after community members and the extended family here. There will be plenty on at the grounds apart from the footy, certainly loads of hospitality, past players and others to mingle with,” current player Vikki Fischer explains.

Who are those others you might get to mingle with? Her Royal Highness, Princess Angelika Tuku’aho, will be in attendance and those from the Pasifika communities are invited to attend in traditional dress.

“It’s really important for us to be connected to the community in lots of different ways, and we’ve had lots of different fundraisers over the years, but this one in particular I would say is quite special because it’s one of our own players who has been quite closely affected by this,” Meilani explains.

The Owls have a strong family connection with Kanokupolu through Tongan 1995 World Cup player and ANU 1992 Premiership legend Falamani Mafi. This personal drive is what makes the team even more driven to support their family.

“When the tsunami happened in the first place, everybody felt it quite closely and it was all very devastating—but then to hear that it had an even closer effect on somebody that we know, it was something that we knew we had to get around ,” Meilani explains.

“Even though Tonga is a fair bit away, being around the community and being around each other and really seeing how important it is to members of the Tongan community and how important it is to our club—I think that is what makes it so special to be able to come in person and get around the fundraiser on the day.”

You can show your support by heading along to watch some footy, enjoying some hot food, having your arm ready to outbid the crowd, or trying your luck in the raffle. If you can’t make it along on the day there is also an online donation site here.

The Essentials

What: Fundraising day for Tonga with Owls Rugby Club
When: Saturday 9 July 10:30 am – 5 pm
Where: ANU North Oval in Turner (off Barry Drive)
Wer: Owls Facebook

Feature image supplied by the club.

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