Greg Steel’s family never saw it coming.
A popular figure and leader in his community, his death in May was felt across the Albany and Narrikup communities.
Now, the Steel family are joining forces with local cricketers in an effort to stop other families going through the same heartache, creating a mental health round in memory of the man affectionately known as “Cobba”.
A dedicated husband and father of three, Mr Steel was a long-serving volunteer for several sporting organisations.
The inaugural Cobba’s Round for mental health awareness will be played on Saturday, November 30, with all funds raised donated to Beyond Blue.
Speaking for the first time since their loss, wife Jo and children Jack, Samuel and Olivia want to share their story to encourage men to speak out if they are struggling.
“In our situation, it came out of the blue. We didn’t see any symptoms of mental health,” Mrs Steel said. “A lot of people don’t want to talk about mental health issues but this is something that is in everyone’s backyard.
“This round is about raising awareness and getting people talking about mental health because since this has happened to us, you realise there is a lot of support out there.”
A key figure at the Narrikup Cricket Club, Mr Steel served as a committee member and player among other volunteer roles in the community.
He was also involved with Railways Football Club and the Great Southern Storm, and spent years coaching young cricketers.
A strong character who liked a laugh, he was also the first person to put his hand up to help out.
Mrs Steel said the cricket, football and netball communities had helped her family through their darkest times.
“The support they have given all of our family has been amazing,” she said.
“Greg was active in everything he did, all of his volunteer work.
“The thing for Greg is how his life ended does not define what he was as a person. He left a legacy for the kids of a good work ethic — that was just him.” Mr Steel liked to call people “Cobba”, and when the junior cricketers he was coaching starting returning the favour, the nickname stuck.
Jack and Samuel will play for Royals in the first annual Cobba’s Round on what is sure to be an emotional day for the brothers. “It will be good to go out and just play with our mates and have some fun, that’s what Dad would have wanted,” Jack said.
“The social side of things he loved, having fun and sharing a few drinks with your mates.”
Jack used his father’s bat for the first time last Saturday, scoring his maiden half-century.
“His bat was broken for ages. He got it fixed but never got the chance to use it. I thought I’d give it a crack as my other bat broke. So I went out there and made a few runs with it,” Jack said.
Mr Steel’s teammates at Narrikup have not only been central to helping Cobba’s Round get off the ground, but a group of them are raising funds through Movember.
More than $2000 has already been donated to “Greg’s Cobbers”.
Narrikup player Aldo Lionetti has been a big part of organising the round to honour his close mate. “Greg was a great servant to the community,” he said.
“The pressures are so great these days so we have to get people, especially blokes, talking about it. When it’s so close to home, it is really hard to take.”
Mr Lionetti said other cricket clubs had wanted to play for a shield in memory of Mr Steel and that was how the Cobba’s Round concept was conceived.
“Headspace are going to set a tent up and chat to the teams afterwards,” he said.
“We need to get it out there that people who are struggling can actually talk to someone and get them through it.
“We will put a few snags on, there will be some game awards and we will just get together and enjoy the company of our mates.”