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Sleapy’s Day awakens from COVID-19 slumber

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Rain, hail or shine… the ever-popular Sleapy’s Day will awaken from its COVID-19 slumber this weekend.

That’s the promise from the legend himself, Peter Sleap.

After the pandemic derailed the much-loved fundraiser in 2020, organisers were reasonably confident the 2021 edition – featuring the South Newcastle Lions and long-time foes Western Suburbs Rosellas – would return to the Tooheys Newcastle Rugby League (Real NRL) calendar.

But, NSW Government-enforced health restrictions put paid to that, with the Sleapy’s Foundation board and Sleapy’s Day committee making the tough decision to cancel the event at the last minute.

“We’ve missed the past two years,” the man behind the charity and cancer survivor said.

“And, now, they’re predicting huge amounts of rain.

“However, Sleapy’s Day is going ahead regardless on Saturday 9 April.

“If the matches get cancelled, we’ll move everything to Souths Merewether.

“Nothing’s going to stop us.”

In just a decade, Sleapy’s Day has amassed and distributed more than $750,000.

“My wife, Robynn, and I created it in 2010, a year after I was diagnosed with throat cancer,” Sleap said.

“While I was undergoing radiation and chemotherapy, some footy mates of mine – and the Lions fraternity – rallied together to raise funds to assist my medical expenses and other necessities through a sports luncheon featuring North Queensland Cowboys duo Peter Parr and Jonathan Thurston.

“I was overwhelmed by their generosity, it was completely unexpected, and it meant the world to Robynn and myself.

“Once I improved, I felt compelled to repay the club – and it just grew and grew.

“So, we thought, let’s make a charity out of it.

“You know, form something good from a bad situation and start helping others with cancer.”

In the Lions’ sights at Townson Oval this weekend is fierce rivals, the Central Newcastle Butcher Boys.

The showdown doubles as a round three fixture in the Real NRL.

“The Butcher Boys have been involved in Sleapy’s Day before,” Sleap said.

“There’s a good rivalry between the two teams.

“But, the South Newcastle boys are chomping at the bit to get on the field this season.

“They’re keen as mustard – under the watchful eye of new coach Andrew Ryan.

“I don’t think they could handle another washout,” he added with a laugh.

“It should be a cracking match.”

However, Sleapy’s Day isn’t just about rugby league.

It’s also a time of reflection and the chance to honour those who have succumbed to the insidious disease.

“The Lions will run onto the paddock wearing specially-designed jerseys,” Sleap said.

“Six people who have passed in the past year, that had dealings with the foundation, will have their faces on the South Newcastle playing strip.

“I addressed all the squads at training on Tuesday night – and spoke to everyone about the day.

“The Lions’ juniors receive special tops, too.

“And, on Thursday evening, the first-graders will present them to the young kids.

“It’s magnificent being involved in that.”

Sleap said there would be something for everyone at Sleapy’s Day on Saturday, whether they were at the ground or at the club afterwards.

“We’ll have a VIP ladies’ marquee with a photo booth, grazing platters and $10 Sleapy’s Splice cocktails; a barbecue and beverages from noon until full-time in first grade; an exhibition match featuring the Souths’ juniors; a magician for the kids; Daniel Joyce will spray paint a surfboard on the day, which will go under the hammer; music; auctions; Club 100; raffles and heaps of other things,” he told the Newcastle Weekly.

“Then there’s Cuts for Cause, where we’ve set-up a barber – Joe from Scissorhands Charlestown Square – on a stand.

“We’ve had numerous requests for me to shave my head.

“I’m happy to do it but it will cost $5,000.

“So, if people want to donate towards that, they’ll have to stump up the cash.

“Les Hicks is also getting rid of his Ned Kelly beard.

“And, if we reach $2,000, he’ll shave his melon as well.

“Emcee Michael Christian is returning, too.

“He has a strong relationship with Sleapy’s Day and Sleapy’s Foundation after we supported his sister-in-law.

“The evening, back at Souths Merewether, will be huge.

“There, we’ll have finger food and draw the raffle, an auction for the players’ jerseys, the presentation of families of beneficiaries and a seven-piece band, Early Daze Rock, after the formalities.

“The record amount for a jumper is $10,000, paid by ex-NRL star Sione Mata’utia.

“Newcastle Knights Mitch Barnett and Lachlan Fitzgibbon will also attend.

“They’re absolute champions and big supporters of what we do.

“Overall, it’s a really good party atmosphere.

“I guess, after COVID-19, it will be a great way to break the shackles – and make up for the past two years.

“Generally, it’s a fantastic night regardless.

“But, I think, it will be bigger and better this time around.

“Well, I hope it is.”

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