Sportsmen get kit off to help battling Ebonie - PICTURES

A BUNCH of beefy rugby players have bared all in front of the camera - so the parents of a desperately ill little girl can keep on paying their household bills.

The lads from Dodworth Rugby League Club at Barnsley leapt into action after prop forward Mick Webb was forced to give up his job to help care for three-year-old daughter Ebonie, who was battling a potentially fatal brain tumour.

Knowing Mick was struggling to pay the mortgage with no regular income, the team stripped off in a quiet corner of the training ground, and posed for a calendar shoot wearing nothing but boots and socks.

Stunned Mick and wife Leanne only found out what was going on when teammate Damien Blanchard phoned out of blue and asked for a photo of Ebonie to go on the front page of the finished product.

Almost 300 copies of the calendar have now been snapped up at 7 a time - with the proceeds going to support the family while Ebonie undergoes an intensive course of tumour-shrinking chemotherapy at Sheffield Children's Hospital.

Grateful builder Mick, aged 31, saluted his pals for lining up in the altogether and said: "Nobody could ask for a better bunch of mates.

"I'd not said anything to the team about how bad things were financially, but they knew we were having a hard time of it with me and Leanne having to give up work, and they set about hiring a photographer and putting the calendar together without letting on.

"I didn't know a thing about it until Damien got in touch asking for a photo of Ebonie. I couldn't work out why he wanted a picture, but eventually he told me about the calendar and said, 'Hope you're alright with it 'cos the team have all got their kit off...'

"I know they're not the prettiest blokes on earth. Some of them are a bit on the ugly side, but the calendars have sold like hot cakes, and I've not heard anyone complaining!

"I'll never be able to thank them enough for what they've done. Getting your kit off is not an easy thing to do and I'm not sure whether I'd have been brave enough to join in!"

Self-employed Mick hasn't been able to work since Ebonie was rushed into hospital for life-saving surgery last May.

He added: "The doctors at Sheffield Children's Hospital warned us it was a very risky procedure, and said there was a danger Ebonie might die or end up paralysed or blind. It was an awful time, but she managed to come through it without any side effects. I tried to keep working at first, but I was taking time off dashing backwards and forwards to be with Ebonie at the hospital, and I was letting down my customers all the time.

"I realised eventually I'd got to put Ebonie before everything else.

She comes first, and things are going to stay that way while she's having treatment.

"We've sold our caravan, all my tools, and my works van to try to keep afloat, but it's been getting harder all the time, and we've been falling behind with the mortgage and some of the other bills.

"The calendar has saved us from a whole load of worry financially, and I just want the lads to know how much the gesture means."

Former beauty therapist Leanne, 29, said the team deserved a medal.

She added: "I think it's great, and it just shows how much the lads care."

Pal Damien, 27, said the team had jumped at the chance to bare all for Mick, who played with Sheffield Eagles Academy team as a teenager.

Damien added: "Mick's a proud guy, and he didn't let on to anybody how tight things were financially, but we knew he needed help with Ebonie in and out of hospital all the time and him not being able to work.

"We wanted him to know we were there for him when the chips were down, and I'm glad the calendar's been such a success. Stripping off turned out to be a lot of fun, and it was the least we could do."

Copies of the calendar are still available, call 07961 453 032.

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