Bulldogs carry Bryce and rebuild club

Rochelle Dunster, left, Bryce Dineen, Teia Dunster and park ranger Mark Ray are ready for the community to pull together and make the event happen. Photo: John Borren/SunLive.

Like many recently, the Papamoa Bulldogs Rugby League & Sports Club has had a rough run. Struggling to recruit players and volunteers to keep the club going, this season they’ve decided to rebuild and reconnect with their local community.

To do this they will physically carry an inspirational local to the top of Papamoa Hills tomorrow to fulfil one of his own personal bucket-list items.

Bryce Dinneen, who at age 29 became tetraplegic from a diving accident but has gone onto help others with his own charity Wish4Fish, will be carried up the hill by Papamoa Bulldogs players.

The idea sprouted from Bryce and veteran Bulldog Teia Dunster’s friendship. Past Alloy Cats foreman, Teia helped build the Wish4Fish boat that helps people with disabilities or mental unwellness get out on the water and enjoy the freedom and pleasure of our ocean waters.

Teia and Bryce had talked of going up the Mount or Pap Hills for sunrise New Year’s Day.

“It didn’t quite eventuate,” says Teia. “But, getting back into footy pre-season, I thought: ‘Man we could get this guy [Bryce] up here – because that’s one of his goals and tie it with our boys getting some pre-season fitness under their belts’. And bring it together by bringing the community in.”

Tomorrow morning, March 26, Teia is inviting Bulldog players, supporters and the community at large to meet at Papamoa Hills carpark.

The operation to carry Bryce to the top starts 10.30am.

A custom-made stretcher will help six Bulldogs carry Bryce at a time “pallbearer-style”. The handles are big enough that we can interchange and swap out – so three on each side and just keep rotating to give everyone a break on the way up,” says Teia. “There’s a few pit-stops on the way that we’ll take advantage of.”

The event doubles as a fundraiser for the Bulldogs with a Givealittle page to donate towards supporting the club’s growth and survival. “I know everyone’s been doing it tough with Covid but we’re just looking at different avenues to generate some income,” says Teia.

PBRLSC has a strong junior club and one senior team. “Last year our senior team defaulted a few games, played some with 11 players, or put younger boys on as they couldn’t make numbers.”

Teia says it’s difficult to bring younger players through the growth period of Under-17s to seniors. “They sort of disappear and it’s about keeping them interested and involved with rugby league.

“It was quite sad to see some of the boys with how hard they done it. I’ve been involved with the Bulldogs for seven years,” says Teia, who was away last year.

“That just made me driven to come back, be part of the club and get the boys going again.”

Bryce says his journey with Wish4Fish has always been about energy and engagement. “Here’s a local sport club that’s done it really tough, is trying to navigate through Covid, that is trying to put some energy and engagement not only back into their team but the wider community.

“The Givealittle is there and if people can share it with their friends, whanau and maybe put a little in the bucket that would be great – but it’s more about letting the public know what the club is trying to achieve.

“If you don’t let people know what you’re doing, they’re not going to support you. This about putting energy back into a local sports club and a community that are trying to do good.

“For me, it’s about breaking down some barriers around access and opportunity, saying: ‘Hey, it can be done with the right support because that’s what I rely on every day of my life – whether I like it or not.”

Papamoa Hills park ranger Mark Ray says tomorrow’s event will be a challenge but is doable. “There’s a few steep hills and couple of tight spots but I’m sure with enough people they’ll be fine.

“I’ll transport Bryce’s wheelchair to the top so when he gets there he can have a look by driving around on his own independently,” says Mark, who says Bay of Plenty Regional Council is happy for the event to go ahead “because it’s bringing the community together”. To donate to the club, click here.

To learn more about the club, see their Facebook page ‘Papamoa Bulldogs Rugby League & Sports Club Inc’.

Teia thanks BOPRC, Hayden Schick, Mark Ray, Rachelle Dunster, WEON, and the club’s president Jubert Moeke, committee member Tere Strickland and senior coach Johnny Kelly for making this event happen, plus local kaumatua Quinton Bidois for his korero on the park’s cultural history tomorrow.

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