The surprise donation of a shipping container has lifted the spirits of a Brisbane sporting club recovering from theft, vandalism and the ravages of COVID-19.
In June 2020, Wynnum Wolves Football Club on Brisbane’s bayside was left devastated after thieves stole soccer equipment and recycled cans worth thousands of dollars. In November, tragedy struck again when vandals ruined new facilities worth more than $50,000.
On hearing of the century-old club’s struggles, national shipping container company Royal Wolf stepped in, surprising club members with the donation of a shipping container to store and secure equipment for its community teams.
The gesture represented a meeting of wolf packs – two similarly named organisations that value the contribution made by community groups at a grassroots level.
Wynnum Wolves Football Club president, Rabieh Krayem, says the club was humbled to be singled out for the donation.
He says the theft of 5000 recycling cans as well as valuable club equipment and the subsequent vandalism had been heartbreaking for club members who volunteered hours of their free time to raise funds to improve club facilities, and to lower fees so more children could enjoy the sport.
“Even the kids couldn’t work it out,” says Mr Krayem. “Why would someone come and steal our cans? I think it shocked the kids, but I also think it united the club and brought our members together and other people into the club.
“I think when you’re part of a community, people will come. When you see the amount of kids here and the numbers growing, you know that this club means a lot more than just a football team. It's part of the community, part of the fabric of Wynnum.”
Like many community groups across Australia, the Wynnum Wolves faced an uphill battle to maintain morale during the COVID-19 lockdown. Games were delayed but eventually returned, and the club resumed its role as a much-needed outlet for families, many suffering as a result of job losses and the mental impact of the pandemic.
“COVID showed we’re not just here for football, we’re part of a family. And we'll look after you. I think that's something we can be proud of,” says Mr Krayem.
“Despite vandalism, despite stealing, despite financial hardship, we united as a club and looked after our own. There are a lot of good people here.”
One of those “good people” is Wayne Gracey, a club member of 50 years. Mr Gracey started in the junior ranks in 1971, played his way through to senior football, then coached, and served as club president.
“I've always loved the game of football, but I've loved this club more than the game,” says Mr Gracey. “There's always been a sense of loyalty, of family, and a sense of community in this club that I haven't felt in any other club that I've ever been to or visited. And while 2020 was tough on his beloved Wynnum Wolves, it was even tougher for Mr Gracey, who suffered a brain haemorrhage half-way through the season.
With no hospital visitors allowed due to COVID-19 restrictions, Mr Gracey would lie in bed, wondering how his Wolves were progressing in the competition.
“I woke up once and found a big football at the bottom of the bed, with a giant card saying, ‘We won seven-nil today!’ and it was from my Under 20s team, wishing me well and letting me know that they were thinking of me,” he recalls.
After the challenges of 2020, Mr Gracey says things are looking up for the Wolves and points to the Royal Wolf shipping container as a positive.
“You can’t run 700 juniors and a dozen senior teams without collecting a mountain of balls and gear and jerseys that need to be stored somewhere. As I said, every bit of help is always gratefully accepted.”
Royal Wolf National Production Manager, Adrian Russell, says Royal Wolf has a proud history of supporting community organisations and is always willing to do its part to help a community in need. They hope the donation of a shipping container would give the Wynnum Wolves peace of mind, knowing their property was secure.
“As a business, we are proud to help an organisation with such a long-standing commitment to its local community. We wish the Wynnum Wolves every success for their next 100 years.”