Army’s rugby league team will pay tribute to one of Australia’s fallen soldiers through a charity fundraiser on the NSW mid north coast on February 26.
CAPTION: Players from Army Thunder and the Bellingen Magpies battle it out during the 2017 Sergeant Matthew Locke MG Charity football match. Story by Major Jesse Robilliard. Photo by Leading Seaman Tom Gibson.
Sergeant Matt Locke MG was serving with the Special Air Service Regiment in Uruzgan province, Afghanistan, in 2007 when he was killed in a battle with Taliban insurgents.
Since 2009, the team has played an annual fundraiser against the Bellingen Magpies, in Bellingen, Sergeant Locke’s home town.
Coach of the Army Thunder Warrant Officer Class 1 (WO1) Michael Allison said the Sergeant Matthew Locke MG Charity football match had special significance.
“Army Thunder pays tribute in a few ways over the week-long stay in Coffs Harbour and Bellingen,” WO1 Allison said.
“The management and senior players hold an information session educating emerging players about Locky and reflect on their experiences.
“It’s a way for both opposition and community to showcase how special Locky is to them and show tribute to his sacrifice.”
Sergeant Locke’s sister Debbie, who lives in the NSW mid north coast area and helps organise the charity game, said funds raised had been used to support the Grub Club. The not-for-profit organisation was originally established to assist Afghan children in the Uruzgan province obtain an education through the supply of resources such as books, paper, pens and pencils.
“It was started in Matt’s honour to build educational resources in Afghanistan, however, in 2010 we decided to re-focus our efforts in Timor Leste,” Ms Locke said.
“Matt had served there between 1999 and 2001 and he spoke highly of the Timorese people, and it is our honour to help them.
“Thus far we have built a four-room school house in Boramba, Hatu Udu Ainaro Province, which has one room dedicated to a kindergarten, and two other custom-built kindergartens in the villages of Bei Cala and Bobe.”
Ms Locke is thankful for the support the Army provides for the annual charity fundraiser.
“The event wouldn’t be happening without the Army’s support. That support reaches to the governor-general’s office,” she said.
“Not only the Army Thunder, but the Army Band and the 41st Battalion, Royal New South Wales Regiment, all help on the weekend.”