Club legend’s dying wish

PROUD: Riccarton Knights Rugby League Club president says seeing the new changing rooms built would mean everything to him. PHOTO: Martin Hunter

Jim Barclay has a number of bucket list wishes before terminal brain cancer claims him.

One of them is seeing new changing rooms for the Riccarton Knights Rugby League Club.

Mr Barclay (above) has been president of the club for 15 years and has been a key part of the fundraising.

Money has often been the biggest obstacle but now, time is his worst enemy.

Mr Barclay, 59, was diagnosed with a terminal brain tumour last September and was only given 12 to 18 months to live.

“It’s a vision I had 30-odd years ago, I thought, we’ve got two fields, why have we only
got two changing rooms?” he said.

It meant that if four teams played on a game day, they had to share the two changing rooms between them.

The club is trying to raise $30,000 needed to secure a loan for new changing rooms, which he hoped to open next year. The project was estimated to cost $245,000.

“I’m in a bit of a hurry to see projects finished,” Mr Barclay said.

Seeing the new changing rooms would make everything “worthwhile,” he said.

He joined the Knights when he was 28, after switching codes from rugby union and kept on playing until last year, aged of 58. Over the years, Mr Barclay played in the seniors, the reserves and finally the president’s division, for over 35s.

“I wanted a fresh challenge, I played for Burnside [rugby union] and wanted to try something new.”

Playing rugby league was a “mission”, Mr Barclay admitted. He played as a hooker, prop or “where ever” he was required.

“I quickly learned about fitness, but you know it was something I believed in so I just kept plugging away.

“I finished at the start of the season. It was all the aches and pains. I had to accept that I was getting old and that I’ve had my time,” he said.

When Mr Barclay first joined the club, there were no junior teams and took it upon himself to form one.

The juniors proved successful, paving the way for young players, including Manly Sea Eagles second-rower Lewis Brown, who is set to return to the city for their game against the Warriors this week.

“He came to us as an eight or nine-year-old. He played for us until he was a young teen and then he went to Australia.

“He was a player that had the right attitude. He would always do the training, he wasn’t always out chasing girls,’’ Mr Barclay said.

But the club wasn’t all about rugby league, he said. It had softball and touch teams that were just as important to the Knights, keeping activity alive throughout the year.

Riccarton Knights treasurer Peter Carey said the club wouldn’t be in a position to
build new changing rooms without Mr Barclay’s stable leadership.

“We are probably one of the few clubs that has a fairly healthy bank balance at the moment,” Mr Carey said.

He lauded Mr Barclay’s integrity, which helped the club become stable.

“We had a president who helped himself to the club funds to go gambling and Jim helped track him down
and had him exited from the club pretty quickly,” Mr Carey said.

As for Mr Barclay himself, it has become a waiting game.

He remains hopeful to finish his list, including visiting Melbourne for tomorrow’s State of Origin opener and a trip to Fiji in October.