The effect of how an NRL team can make a difference in the community, and the power of attachment and inclusion with your heroes and the sport you love, was seen here at the Titans last week through the experience of an 11-year-old boy who was facing some struggles in his young life.
The young Titans fan is Eddison Williams, who we were delighted to bring to the inner circle of the Titans and were blessed to see gain a new vitality and a outlook on his young life through the experience.
The Titans received a heart-warming letter from Eddison’s father Michael, a Gold Coast stay at home dad, about how Eddison – one of his four sons – had become increasingly withdrawn at school and found it hard to be included in group activities.
He loves rugby league and, like so many boys his age, would love to be a Titans player one day.
Yet he struggles to get much game time for his club team and at school and at weekends, he does not get the ball passed to him as much as others.
Michael explained that for Eddison just being accepted by his teammates is sometimes a major struggle and to be overlooked when he puts his heart and soul into helping others saddens him. Two of Michael’s other sons are also into sport and play for the same club and are club favourites with their teams’ coaches and players.
Yet Eddison has a great heart.
This was shown when he was recently selected to be a student councillor, and he noticed a boy who was upset that he, too, wasn’t selected.
So Eddison offered to surrender his role for him. The school said no, which upset Eddison who then decided to become a buddy to the boy who is in foster care and asked his parents if the boy could stay with them on weekends to help him fit in, despite Eddison struggling himself.
Yet, at school and with his weekend footy team, Eddison remained on the fringe and seemed unhappy.
Michael was concerned and looked to the Titans to see if we could provide a special experience with the team Eddison is so passionate about, to boost his spirits.
Michael explained: “I just want him to feel part of something. I’m concerned he will shut himself away from others. He needs a boost of life, to be wanted, not in a family sense, but in a team environment, just to be recognized.”
The Titans were more than happy to play a role.
So last week the Williams family attended a training session and met and mingled with the players afterwards. The boys received a supporters’ pack and an invitation to our game against Manly.
On Monday night, he had the honour of running onto the field with captain William Zillman to the roar of the crowd which included all his family.
After the game, Eddison was able to visit the dressing room and had a match ball signed by the team.
Michael reported afterwards: “Eddison was buzzing in the car all the way home from the game and this morning on the way to school. I haven’t seen him so happy and bubbly like this for a long time.
“He may have been a good luck charm for the Titans but the Titans gave me a happier fulfilled son, and for that I am so grateful.”
For Titans game day and community development manager Renee Cohen, this was one of many events that she passionately facilitates.
And she was just as grateful as the Williams’ were in being able to put a spring in the step of young Eddison.
“We are lucky to have a club that truly cares about making a difference, the players and coaching staff embraced Eddison like he was part of the Titans’ family,” she said.
“Seeing the smile on his face as he ran out the team is a perfect example of how rugby league can truly make you feel like you belong.
“And to receive Michael’s feedback after Monday night warmed a few hearts at this club too.
"It’s part of what we strive for – contributing to the community by more than trying to win football games.”