Errol Babbage isn’t your ordinary sheep farmer.
Sure, if you duck out to his place on the outskirts of Orange you’ll find plenty of lambs and even more wool, but few cockies have the NSW State of Origin coach on speed dial.
And, you could safely assume, even less have helped Brad Fittler buy his precious llamas - a lovely couple by the name of Michelle and Barack, no less.
“I’ve know Freddy for a while … good bloke,” Badger, as he’re more commonly known said.
“He bought this block of land at Terry Hills and I had to get him some llamas or dlamas or whatever you call them.
“He wanted a couple of calves or something, it was Old MacDonald had a farm sort-of-thing.”
You can imagine it, can’t you?
“Anyway,” Badger continues.
“We went and picked them out near Wellington. A bloke had a pet farm up there. We picked these three out and he said ‘yeah, they’re pregnant those three’ … so when Freddy went to pick them up, the bloke said ‘ah, no I had sell them, I’ve got three more for you’ … the bastard.”
Badger laughs at the yarn and, really, it hasn’t bothered Fittler that his new llamas didn’t come with a few added bonuses.
The Roosters, NSW and Australian rugby league great knows nothing is ever handed to you.
Work hard, and you’ll reap the rewards.
It’s why he left no stone un-turned as he guided NSW to a breakthrough State of Origin win in 2018, even if some of his methods were a little unconventional.
Like laying on the grass and looking into the heavens visualising the game the night before, it’s not something Badger used to do in Mudgee in the 1960s.
Nor is taking his boots off and walking barefoot on the field to absorb the ground’s minerals.
If Badger did that back in 1986 when Ron Hilditch came to the mid-west to coach the Mudgee Dragons, he would have been laughed out of town.
But they do share a common cause.
Badger is the backbone of the Central West leg of the Hogs For The Homeless tour, an initiative Fittler has been behind since 2013.
If Fittler needs something organised or, more importantly, needs some money raised, Badger’s his man.
He sells sheep and organises the dinner at Duntryleague to help the cause, which directly aids Father Chris Riley’s Youth off the Streets movement.
Since Fittler started Hogs For The Homeless, the initiative has raised almost $700,000 to help disadvantaged youth, as well as helping Junior Rugby League clubs to raise much-needed funds and increase registrations.
Fittler has described Badger as a “super star” for his Hogs for the Homeless crusade.
It’s why the ex-Rooster always brings his Harley through Orange, and this year is no exception.
Fittler will roll through the Central West on Tuesday, February 19.
He’ll conduct a footy clinic up at Waratahs, and then spruik the State of Origin shield his Blues own at a charity dinner that night at Duntryleague.
He put (the NSW Blues) all in the bus and said ‘I’ll show you what the real world is like’. It’s unbelievable. Makes you appreciate life. It makes you want to help.Badger Babbage.
He’ll then help Badger sell some sheep out at the Carcoar Livestock Exchange the next morning.
In nine days, he’ll travel 4000 kilometres across the blue state, hitting Port Macquarie, Lennox Head, Moree, Tamworth, Scone, Tumut, Wagga, Baulkham Hills and, of course, Orange and Carcoar along the way.
Along for the stay at Orange will be the likes of fellow NSW Origin greats Danny Buderus, Nathan Hindmarsh, Beau Scott, Steve Menzies, Greg Alexander, former Roosters hard-man Ian Schubert, ex-Cowboys coach Neil Henry, presenter Tim Gilbert and, for the first time in Orange, Father Chris Riley will also be in attendance.
“It’s all just to help Father Chris Riley out, it’s a good cause,” Badger reiterates.
Badger’s sheep sales raise a lot of money for that cause while Fittler and the hogs are in the region.
His goal this year is to sell upwards of 60 lambs for “a couple of hundred each”, which if he does should raise near $12,000 alone.
There’s also a signed NSW Blues jumper up for auction at the dinner on February 19.
“They tell me he took the Blues all out one night to help feed the homeless out of a van, one of Father Chris’ vans,” he added.
“He put them all in the bus and said ‘I’ll show you what the real world is like’.
“It’s unbelievable. Makes you appreciate life. It makes you want to help.”
Last year, the Hogs For The Homeless helped re-turf Wellington’s Kennard Park, and they’ll do a similar deed to cap the 2019 tour as well when the ride concludes with a re-turf of the Jasper Road Public School playing field at Baulkham Hills.
They’ll also hand out around 5000 footballs during the tour.
“That sort of stuff, it’s just fantastic,” Badger beems.
The Hogs For The Homeless ride hits the central west on February 19, the Carcoar lamb sale is on February 20.
Anyone who wants to buy a lamb can contact Badger on 0428 164 398.
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