Rugby league supporters will today join together in a sixth minute round of applause at the Challenge Cup final to mark the career of Steve Gartland and raise awareness of the #ITSOKAYTOTALK campaign.
Former Rochdale, Oldham and Swinton stand-off Gartland passed away last week at the age of 45, and his former teammate Chris Hough has led the campaign to honour his memory.
Hough has been in close contact with the Gartland family, who are keen for the applause to also heighten awareness of mental health issues including the#ITSOKAYTOTALK campaign that has been running on social media.
Hough said: “It’s been a really sad week for rugby league in general, but it’s fitting how the rugby league family has come together and that’s made things better for his family.
“We had a WhatsApp group with the Rochdale Mayfield lads, and it was suggested that we could do a round of applause in the sixth minute at the cup final because that was the main number he played in.
“We think it would be a fitting tribute to a great rugby guy and family man and if we could pull that off.
“I’ll be there with my family and we’ll be on our feet clapping as loud as we can and asking people to join in.
“We want to give him a fitting tribute and also to raise awareness of mental health issues.”
Gartland’s son Bradley had this message: “Please can everyone on the sixth minute stand and applaud to show their respects to such a dedicated, passionate and truly inspiring man in Rugby League.
“As well as showing respect, I hope this minute’s applause will raise awareness of a very important but often overlooked illness and show people that #itsokaytotalk.
“If you are at the game, or even if you are watching it on TV, please join in.”
Fans of Hull FC are also urging those at the game to applaud in the 19th minute for their former Academy player Brad Parker, who passed away in November last year.
Steve Gartland was a former Rochdale, Oldham and Swinton halfback who was a prolific points scorer throughout his career.
He played in the top flight for both Hornets and the Roughyeds, and also extended his career in the amateur game with Rochdale Mayfield having started out at Oldham St Annes.
He was one of a quartet of gifted youngsters from St Annes that made their way into the professional game at Rochdale – alongside Matt Calland, Adrian Belle and Martin Kay – and made his debut in the old First Division in 1990.
He made six appearances that season, scoring tries against Leeds and Widnes.
He went on to break Hornets’ record for points in a season with 276 in 1992-93, which stood for two years, and also featured in their 1991 Lancashire Cup final appearance against St Helens.
Gartland then moved onto Oldham Bears in 1994, playing regularly in the top flight for them, including two matches in Super League in 1996.
A second spell with Rochdale then followed, before he moved to Swinton, where he continued to be rack up points.
Fittingly, his professional career finished back at Spotland, where he was part of the squad that finished third in the old Northern Ford Premiership in 2001. His final appearances for the club came the following season
He then moved back into the amateur game where he enjoyed further success with Rochdale Mayfield and was also a hugely popular coach with junior players.
Gartland’s son Bradley said: Calling my dad a hero is an understatement.
“Words cannot describe how much he meant to us all as a father, husband, son, brother, uncle, teammate, coach and friend.
“He has gifted both me and Liam with a fantastic network of friends, instilled belief and provided us both with valuable opportunities to excel in life.
“He had a great passion to inspire as many people as he could at Mayfield Rugby League helping boys develop into men.
“He dedicated the vast majority of his time coaching ‘Garty’s boys’ from six years old and taking them all the way to under-18s whereby they went on to pursue either professional careers or still continue to play for the club.
“I take great privilege in calling him my dad.
“I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for the enormous support, it has been truly overwhelming.
“Knowing that he is in everyones hearts and prayers helps us as a family get through each day.
“Dealing with the loss of such a happy, passionate and well respected man in the way we did just shows how powerful depression and mental health as a whole is.”