The stirring story of Stockman Rugby Club

by Sam Phillips

Life in remote, rural parts of Australia can be very, very lonely.

It is not unusual for one property - and therefore one property owner - to be more than 100 kilometres away from the next form of human contact and when times get tough, as they often are in the bush, that can create an even larger sense of isolation.

A gloomy mindset typically follows and the facts show that mental health and subsequently, suicide rates in young people, are double those of their urban counterparts.

That is the reality of life in the bush and the Stockman Rugby Club have set out to do what they can in addressing that discrepancy.

Founded in Longreach back in 2013, Stockman rugby brings country men from all walks of life together to take part in international rugby tours.

"This is an opportunity for young guys in those remote area to open up, if that's what they want to do," Classic Wallaby and Stockman coach Chris Roche said.Stockman Rugby Club leave for a whirlwind tour of New Zealand and Argentina on Sunday. Photo: Getty Images"Men are famous for not talking if they are feeling down or feel like they need some help.

"We are here to try and help them and if we can make a difference in that space, I think we're doing something pretty special."

Roche and his coaching staff started out with a Queensland centric side in 2013 but this year, fuelled by applications from around the country, players from rural NSW, Western Australia, Victoria and Tasmania will be on the tour to Argentina and New Zealand, which leaves on Sunday.

While that camaraderie provides invaluable boosts to the psyche of players that may have been battling otherwise, it also gives on field opportunities to players that aren't able to pack up and move to the big smoke to chase their rugby dreams.

"There is a severe lack of opportunity for these guys simply because of the distance factor," Stockman founder Shaun Mackin told RUGBY.com.au.

"All this talent was being geo isolated so we sussed out whether there would be much interest, back in 2013.

"The rest is history.

The club will play five matches on tour. Photo: Stockman Rugby Club"The rugby always came first but the other aspects of it - the fact that some of these guys haven't even been out of their own state, let alone the country, as well as the personal qualities, have come with it.

"There's the leadership, the maximising of some really good personal qualities and the camaraderie.

"Guys leave the tour feeling ten feet tall and that's really incredible to see."

There have been some famous names associated with the Stockmans club.

Michael O'Connor coached the club and Tony Melrose, John Eales and Mark Ella have served as ambassadors in the club's short history.

That's testament to the fabric of this club.

Rugby will always remain the focal point but the benefits each and every player picks up from every tour knows no bounds.

"It opens their eyes from their own patch to the rest of the world," Mackin said.

"These guys are paying for this off their own backs.

"We give them a fundraising kit but most of them are forking out $5000 and if it was just a big piss up, they would go down to their local pub.

"They're here to play rugby and to be part of something pretty special."

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