GARETH Widdop may be known for his heroic deeds on a rugby league pitch – helping children in broken families is just as rewarding.
Especially when it means finding two kids at home who should be fending for themselves when they should have been at school.
The Warrington ace stays just as far off the field when he returns to his native Australia.
He has joined the Clontarf Foundation, a national charity that helps 10,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island children get an education in the Illawarra region of New South Wales.
And he’s so dedicated that he might just carry on when his illustrious career – which has seen NRL success and a World Cup final – is over.
Over the last off-season, Halifax-born Widdop has been meddling in the area where he lives Down Under, and one incident left a big impression.
He recalls, “I had a checklist of all the guys and a few weren’t there. So I jumped in a van and showed up at their house.
“They come from a broken home and their mother works long hours so she wasn’t there. I knocked on the door and said, ‘Come on boys, it’s time to go to school.’
Most read in rugby league
“I would help the kids with their schoolwork or those who couldn’t or wouldn’t walk, bring them inside and play table tennis or a bit of football. Something to get them a little buzz.
“I have some buddies who run Clontarf near where I live in the Illawarra area. I’ve kept in touch with one of them, Vili Sirilo, since my junior days with Melbourne Storm.
“He asked if I could help and I jumped at the chance. I got involved and saw many disadvantaged families – broken families who don’t have a mother or father close by.
“Just going out there and helping these little kids was a real eye opener. Being able to go back and help and put a smile on these kids’ faces was something I really enjoyed.
“It’s something I want to do in the future to give back to these kids. It’s something I really got a kick out of for a week or two while I was there – I loved it, it was great.”
Widdop, who turned 33 last Saturday, emigrated to Australia when he was 16 and is moving there after the Super League season.
He told SunSport he is treating this campaign as if it could be his last and when the boots hang up he will be close to his three children.
But he had to deal with a family trauma of his own, namely whether his parents and sister would lose their Queensland properties to devastating floods.
Widdop added ahead of today’s clash with Wakefield: “It’s more them who were affected in the Gympie area. Mom and Dad had no electricity for three or four days and couldn’t leave town.
“Dad has a generator, so he used it every night to see some of the older people in the area.
“It was shocking and quite scary. My sister sent me videos of her backyard, a few more days and her house would have been underwater. The stores had nothing on the shelves.
“The whole city is devastated, it’s sad to see and I felt a little helpless on the other side of the world.”
https://www.thesun.co.uk/sport/18000174/warrington-wolves-gareth-widdop-charity-work-australia/ Gareth Widdop helps children in broken families after the Warrington exploits