Stoke man and well-known rugby figure, Barry Leary, is battling an infection called Bickerstaff Encephalitis.

Community raises money to support ‘local legend’

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It came as a massive shock to the Nelson rugby community when “local legend” Barry Leary was diagnosed with a rare inflammatory disorder – but now they’re rallying to do something he’s been doing for years, help out.

Barry, affectionately known as “Bazza”, has dedicated the past 20 years to the Stoke Rugby Club and for the past 15 years he coached Nelson Under 52kgs.

On January 31, Barry came down with flu-like symptoms. He ended up in the Wellington intensive care unit with a rare central nervous infection, Bickerstaff Encephalitis.

Tasman rugby union community rugby manager and friend of Barry, Kahu Marfell, says kids and parents involved with the club were devastated by the news. “I’ve talked to many a parent in the last week or so and they all agree that he is larger than life and he has got a personality the same. He’s always got a smile and gives the boys a high five whenever they see him. That’s the sort of relationship he builds up with kids.”

He says Barry has made a massive impact on the lives of the kids he has coached.

“He’s got a big personality, but a big heart too. On the outside Bazz is a rough diamond, a couple of broken noses, a couple of teeth missing, but he has the biggest heart when it comes to boys who he’s coached.”

Kahu, along with several of Barry’s friends, has started up a donation page on givealittle.co.nz in order to help Barry through any financial hurdles involved in rehabilitation.

As of yesterday afternoon, they had raised $5,683.50 for Barry. “It just shows how many people he’s actually connected with. Over 86 people have donated.”

Kahu says, at present Barry is unable to talk, but the last time he heard he was “gradually improving”.

“For anyone who loves a yarn or has been a communicator in the past, to not be able to talk could be quite frustrating.”

Donations to Barry can be made at https://givealittle.co.nz/cause/bazzaleary