For Bruce Binge’s family and friends, the Border Knockout in Goondiwindi on the weekend was about more than just winning.
Late last year Binge took his own life but his legacy and love of rugby league won’t be forgotten after a team gathered to take on the tournament to bring awareness to mental health.
The Bruce Binge Memorial team lost the opening game of the competition but then went on a winning run to take out the second tier prize in a final against Dallas Green Memorial – a side also running out to honour another man who took his own life.
Down 18-nil at half-time in the consolation final, the Bruce Binge team managed to pull off a comeback to win 26-24 after the siren.
“It was very emotional, it was a stressful occasion for everyone involved,” player Geoff Swan said.
“Everyone in one way or another had a connection to Bruce and his family.
“We were definitely driven by emotion, memory and playing in honour of Bruce.
“In the final we were down 18-nil and the boys found something within themselves to come back.
“Knowing Bruce, he loved his footy and was very competitive, he would have been very cheerful and thrilled.”
Binge’s children Jahkeem, Mary and Jerrakai and wife Grace were on hand to witness the pride and honour the side played for.
“The kids rarely missed a training session and kept us motivated,” Swan said.
Bruce’s cousin and Moree Boomerangs’ Chris Binge coached the knockout team and said the meaning of the carnival far outweighed the results.
“After the grand final I pulled both teams together to have a chat about when you are not feeling good and when you are not feeling okay at any point in your life the most important thing you can do is talk to someone because that could be the thing that makes the difference in whether your life is prolonged or not,” he said.
“The most encouraging thing about that game, regardless of who won, was the message was the loud and clear winner.
“The motivating factor in all this was going out and putting yourself on the line for the sake of a good cause.”
Binge added it was one of the most memorable moments he’s had in his sporting career.
“I have coached here in Group 19 with the Boomerangs and won two grand finals and played in another but in saying that, the buzz and the feeling of the victory out there on Saturday with those guys was definitely up there with coaching grand finals,” he said.
“It meant more to me because of what we were playing for.”
At the conclusion of the tournament, the team gathered and spoke about reuniting in the future to play and keep spreading the mental health awareness message.
Binge said he wouldn’t hesitate at putting his hand up to coach the team again.
“I would be the first person to say 'let's do it' because I believe in the cause so much,” he said.
“Being a very close relative, football for me was the second thing.
“For me the most important thing was all of us being there for the right reasons and I think everyone who took part, whether they were an organiser, any family members, would have no hesitation if we were asked ever again to do something like this, we would.”
Players came from all over the state for the cause.
“We had players who had never played together and didn't know each other but I think the bond those guys built throughout the day culminated in that final game of the day,” Binge said.
“We were only beaten once on the day and the team that beat us that day was the team that played in the final.
“When we lost that first game we were a bit downhearted and we didn't envisage we could pull it together as quick as what we needed to.”