It takes something special to bridge the once-bitter rivalry between Wagga Magpies and Kangaroos but Len Gaffey is just that and the rugby league community is rallying in support of an old teammate.
Gaffey has been battling ill-health for some time and friends and former teammates have organised a 'recognition day' for Sunday December 1 at Wagga Commercial Club.
It's an occasion to reunite old mates, remember Gaffey's on-field exploits and raise some funds to help him out.
"It's a group of friends getting together to help out," organiser Ray Chambers said.
"Len was a good footballer but he's a great bloke off the field too. I've never heard a bad word against him. The event's open to everyone, especially anyone who was associated with Len, to help them through a tough time."
Now 73, Gaffey was a Kangaroos junior who graduated to senior football in the mid-1960s and went on to represent Group 20, Murrumbidgee Rugby League and Riverina.
An attacking, and punishing, centre, he was part of Kangaroos' triumphant 1968 grand final side under captain-coach Graham Kennedy, which beat Magpies for the Murrumbidgee Rugby League premiership.
In 1969, the legendary Monty Porter signed Gaffey to play at Cronulla, a club which was still in its infancy. He played nine games but was keen to return home to the bush.
With Kangaroos unable to pay the transfer fee, arch-rivals Magpies came to the party and Gaffey joined them for two seasons before returning to 'Roos
"We went to school together and have been mates ever since," former Magpies five-eighth John Mavroudis said.
"Len was a very strong attacking footballer, a great ambassador for rugby league and he is well respected throughout the Riverina."
Gaffey's son Nigel rose to prominence as a footballer in his own right. A backrower, he played for Easts, Penrith, South Queensland and Canberra, including in the Raiders' 1990 premiership when he replaced Brad Clyde.
Signed Raiders jumpers are among the memorabilia on offer, as well as a signed Cronulla jumper and a Cameron Smith-signed Melbourne Storm jumper.
Former Kangaroos teammate Terry Baker said Gaffey would have risen through the ranks in any era.
"Len was definitely a great player. Anyone who can play in the NSWRL must have more than average ability," Baker said.
"In fact, his style of football would be ideally suited to today's fast, attacking play.
"Off the field, he is also a good bloke, always good for a laugh."
LEN GAFFEY EVENT
- Recognition Day and fundraiser
- Sunday December 1, from 2pm-6pm
- Wagga Commercial Club
- $20, tickets at the door
- Entry includes ticket in lucky door prize raffle
- Auction of memorabilia and donated items