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Sleapy’s Day primed to be the biggest and best in 2023

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Thirteen is considered an unlucky number for most people.

But, the man behind Sleapy’s Foundation, Peter Sleap, has a different opinion.

And, for good reason.

His main fundraising event, and one of the most popular occasions on the Tooheys Newcastle Rugby League (Real NRL) calendar, Sleapy’s Day, is returning to Merewether’s Townson Oval later this month.

On Saturday 29 July, his beloved South Newcastle Lions will face defending premiers and Denton Engineering Cup frontrunners Maitland Pickers in the eagerly-awaited showdown.

“It’s our 13th edition of Sleapy’s Day, however I think this year’s going to be an incredible success,” Sleap said.

“It will be a blockbuster, one versus two on the ladder.

“What else could you ask for?”

In 2023, Sleapy’s Day will honour the memories of Garry Drummond, Derek Hunt and Eddie Tuilotolaua.

The trio’s images adorn the Souths’ jumpers, predominantly pink this season, while the names of those who’ve passed away since the formation of the foundation, namely their “angels”, are written on the backs of the outfits.

“Everyone knows someone who’s been affected by cancer,” Lions’ skipper Ryan Glanville said.

“So, this day means a lot to so many people.

“Eighty minutes of football is nothing compared to what they’re going, or have been, through.”

Maitland prop James Taylor agreed.

“Having played for Souths in 2016, I’m fully aware of how special Sleapy’s Day is,” he said.

“I had a family member battle cancer, so it’s something that impacted me personally.

“And, since it’s the Pickers’ first involvement in it, I’ll be telling the boys the significance of the event.”

In just over a decade, Sleapy’s Day has amassed and distributed almost $1 million, since its humble beginnings in 2010.

Any money raised flows through to the foundation, a charity that tackles cancer, adversity, poverty, sickness, helplessness, distress or social isolation by providing help by means of immediate cash relief or experiences, either physically or emotionally, that aid in the quality of life in children and adults.

“For those who might not know my story, my wife, Robynn, and I created Sleapy’s Day – with assistance from Peter Parr, Dave Fleming and Tim Butler – 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.

“They organised a sports luncheon featuring Peter, who was at the North Queensland Cowboys at the time, and Jonathan Thurston, Luke O’Donnell and coach Neil Henry.

“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 Sleapy’s Day 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.

“Now, we’re assisting more and more people for a variety of reasons.

“However, at this time of the year, just putting it together, it’s huge.

“And, from all reports, 2023 looks like being bigger than ever.”

Sleap, who won two Real NRL premierships with South Newcastle in 1988 and 1989, said he was overwhelmed by the ongoing support of the rugby league community.

“Although we had to cancel Sleapy’s Day during COVID, it’s grown from us having 30 people to the present where we’ve already sold about 2,000 tickets,” he told the Newcastle Weekly.

“I mean, that’s huge.

“That’s what we’re all about.

“It is not just Souths, it’s Newcastle rugby league altogether.

“The response I get when I go and visit other clubs, it’s fantastic.

“Boys are always coming up to me, when I’m there, saying ‘I’ll see you on Sleapy’s Day’.

“It’s kind of funny, I noticed the Macquarie Scorpions are hosting their Old Boys Day on 29 July.

“I had a joke with them, asking if they were going to change the date.

“They replied: no, you swap your day,” he added with a laugh.

“I told them don’t be surprised if your numbers are down now.

“And, I’ve heard about 15 of the Macquarie Old Boys are heading here.”

Sleap admitted he had some trepidation about Maitland’s involvement.

But, that’s due to his deep respect for the organisation.

“They approached us last year and asked: ‘Can we be a part of Sleapy’s Day, we’ve never done it before? It’s massive’,” he said.

“Dave (Fleming) and I spoke to Frank Lawler and Mick Trelfo about it… and we agreed.

“Then as we walked away, I turned to him and said ‘no way, they might beat us’.

“The Lions always win on Sleapy’s Day,” he chuckled.

“However, credit where credit’s due, the Pickers are a very professional outfit.

“They’re the number one club in the competition for a reason.

“But, Souths are no slouches this season either, we’ve just strung 10 on the trot.

“So, it’ll be first against second, what a dream day… we couldn’t have written a better script.

“Our dealings with Maitland have been spot-on.

“They’ve already organised a couple of buses to come down.

“However, our blokes are professional as well, under Andrew Ryan and Scott Dureau.

“And, I believe we’re just hitting our straps.

“I know we’ve won 10 but I still don’t think we’ve hit top gear yet.

“So, we’ll see what happens on Sleapy’s Day… I can’t wait.”

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