Way back in 1984 having established the Sports and Leisure Ministry under Heads of Churches I initiated Rugby League Chaplaincy.
The first club I met with was the Canberra Raiders. The late Rev F P McMaster MBE accompanied me. The general manager, John McIntyre, came on side immediately by pulling from his top drawer a list of players who were experiencing some form of personal difficulties.
"Sometimes, players are miserable simply because they are suffering home-sickness," explained John McIntyre.
The Illawarra Steelers was next on my agenda, and I took the late Reverend Kenneth L McDowell with me (Director of the InterChurch Trade and Industry Mission) to the next interview, where CEO Bob Millward came on board along with co-director Brian Surtees, whom Mark knew from his Wollongong days writing 'field hockey' for his sports radio program.
The late Jack Gibson of the Cronulla Sharks was next. At this meeting, I was accompanied by the Reverend Roger Reid, the inaugural chairman of the Sports and Leisure Ministry.
After my spiel, which included discussion of the results of his US study tour when he visited the Cleveland Browns, Jack asked him one question,
"Who is the coach of the Cleveland Browns?"
"Sam Ratingliano" Mark responded.
"Send your chaplain down," was Jack's response.
Reverend Kenneth L McDowell again accompanied me on his next appointment, with St George coach Roy Masters. Roy subsequently wrote for the then Sydney Sun, one of the best articles on Christians in sport, in which he included the testimony of Manly Sea Eagles star player Ian Barkley.
As each of the Rugby League clubs came on board and chaplaincy appointments were made with appropriate clergy across the denominational divides, it became clear that the foundational work we had done with Heads of Churches was valuable beyond measure.
I followed Jethro's advice to Moses and established each generic sport ministry with its own co-ordinator to spread the work load, with Reverend Graham Crew initiating this role with the Rugby League Chaplaincy.
The Reverend George Capsis followed Reverend John Giles at the Cronulla Sharks, and George Capsis' 20 year ministry at the Sharks was significant in that he was the World Masters weightlifting champion, heavily involved in Cronulla-Sutherland community welfare and the club had numerous footballers who were 'born-again' Christians during his tenure.
The Reverend Ken Clendinning has enjoyed a remarkable ministry with the Canterbury Rugby League Club even a member of the NSWRL Welfare Committee and Head Chaplain of the 2008 Rugby League World Cup. Ken Clendinning interview with the Australian Missionary News IPTV can be viewed at on YouTube.
There have been numerous newspaper, radio and television interviews of the Rugby League chaplains including, that of the Australian Missionary News IPTV, which are also on You Tube. https://www.youtube.com/user/marktronson/videos
The miracle of the Rugby League chaplaincy appointments is evidenced by the welcome I received as I visited each organisation and how the chaplains themselves applied themselves to their football ministry.
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children. Dr Tronson writes a daily article for Christian Today Australia (since 2008) and in November 2016 established Christian Today New Zealand.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html