Noel Cleal during his time as Sea Eagles recruitment manager.
Noel Cleal during his time as Sea Eagles recruitment manager. JOE MURPHY

League legends pitch in to help ex-Manly great

THIS is the heart-warming story about Aussie footy mates rallying around an old bushie in need.

Noel "Crusher" Cleal, born and bred in the country, had fire rip through his 200 acres in Pappinbarra, 20km north-west of Wauchope, last Sunday, causing $80,000 of damage.

Told of Cleal's plight, about 40 mates - many former rugby league stars - will converge on his property over the first weekend in March to erect 4km of fence that was burned to the ground.

Cleal calls it a "fencing bee".

Among the ex-NRL players to help their mate include his brother Les, Jamie Lyon, Les Boyd, Wayne Honeywood, Charlie Haggett and Graham Malouf, the ex-Parramatta club doctor.

"It is the Swag, Brag and Snag weekend. Bring your swag to sleep in, snags are what we'll eat and there will be some lies told at the night-time over a few beers," Cleal said.

Cleal is a rugby league icon. A rampaging centre and second-rower during the 1980s, Cleal represented Easts, Manly, NSW and Australia before carving out a highly successful career as a recruitment officer for Manly, Parramatta and Canterbury.

He left Sydney just eight weeks ago for a peaceful life in the bush.

Cleal, though, couldn't escape the fire that ravaged his local area. Five families lost their homes and cattle.

Cleal was one of the lucky ones, although he watched on helplessly as his fence was destroyed. Now this hotchpotch crew will rebuild the wooden fence with barbed wire.

"I've got doctors, accountants, farmers, solicitors, tree fellers, garbos, truckies, concreters, builders, mechanics, panel beaters, former footy players coming," Cleal said. "All walks of life. For me to get a new fence put in, it would cost $80,000. This way it will probably cost me half of that.

"We will get as much done as we can. My sons, Kane and Gareth, have rallied every bloke they know. I will ring a couple of old footy mates as well as other friends. Everyone has to bring their swag."

One friend will arrive with a guitar on Saturday for some music, and Cleal's partner, Michelle, will cook the meals.

Kane and Gareth will prepare the timber next Thursday and Friday before the troops arrive. Cleal will erect two toilets and a shower for his weary workers.

"People are pitching in everywhere. I have had blokes come out already cutting down trees and fences," Cleal said.

"I went to Mitre 10 here yesterday and they gave us 50 steel posts. It's going to be a fun weekend - I just hope there's not too much fun and there's a bit of fencing done!"

Cleal stressed other farmers lost significantly more than he did.

"Five families lost their homes, there is dead cattle everywhere, these poor people have lost everything. Their lives have been destroyed. My heart breaks for them. It was disastrous. They lost a lifetime of memories," he said.

"Personally, I was fortunate. Everything I lost can be replaced.

"I have 40 cows and calves coming next week. Thankfully, they didn't turn up early. The Emergency Services, the firies, waters bombers, police, I reckon they saved a dozen homes."

News Corp Australia

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