Tributes flow for former BRL chairman
"RUGBY league (in Bundaberg) today wouldn't be in the situation it is without Mal Breen."
Bundaberg Rugby League chairman Mike Ireland still remembers well the lengths the man he calls his father took to make sure the competition survived in the late 1990s.
Breen died on Thursday night at the age of 72 after bravely battling illness during the final few months of his life.
Described by Ireland as a private man who cared for his family, he was also instrumental in keeping the BRL afloat.
"Twenty years ago, Bundaberg Rugby League were in a situation where they owed $130,000 to the Queensland Rugby League," Ireland said.
"They didn't have a chairman, they didn't have a committee.
"Mal put his hand up to decide, 'okay, we need to keep rugby league going and keep the four city clubs'."
He took over as chairman in a position he held for 13 years and changed the game in the Rum City.
He cleared the debt, got the BRL into the green and set it up to be the success it is today before Ireland took over seven years ago.
Mal said if we were going to be successful, we need sponsors," Ireland said.
"All the fence sponsors you see around here (Salter Oval) now are the work of Mal going around personally himself and asking for sponsors around the fence.
"Mal had a lot of good workers but Mal steered the ship."
Breen didn't just save the BRL when it was down. He also promoted clubs from outside Bundaberg to join and got the Wallaroos into the competition 16 years ago.
"He was synonymous in getting Wanderers into the BRL and also Isis many years ago," Ireland said.
"His favourite side was Wanderers because he played for Wanderers in town and his son Scott did too.
"He loved Hervey Bay as well as he coached them to a premiership."
Breen coached the Seagulls to their first title in 1974 and was a very good player to complement his success as an administrator.
He helped Norths Devils in the Intrust Super Cup to a title in the Brisbane competition in 1964 and played for Bundaberg in the late 60s.
Breen was recognised for his achievements with life membership in the BRL and the Central Division, where he was the first person put in when the division was created.
For Ireland, he will remember Breen as someone who made sure everyone was happy.
"Mal was always at the bakehouse because he loved pies and would always stop and have a yarn to people," he recalls.
"Mal would always have an opinion, but also his opinion was respected by a lot of people.
"I knew Mal from 1973 in Goondiwindi and he coached us.
"He was one of the first people I ran into when I was transferred here. Mal was a father figure to me, I respected him and loved the guy ever since."
Ireland will deliver his eulogy on Wednesday when Breen's funeral is held at the Holy Rosary Catholic Church at Barolin Street at 10am. Breen is survived by his wife Shane, his three children and his seven grandchildren.