A former Newcastle Knights player who returned home to help save his family’s farm was left empty-handed, despite claiming that part of the estate had been promised to him by his mother.
The bitter family feud involving Blake Tremain-Cannon and his mother Leanne Tremain was made public in the NSW Supreme Court this week, after more than a decade of discussions over their kitchen table.
The court heard how Blake spent four years doing his second-class job at the NRL club before returning to Peak Hill, downtown NSW, in 2008 to help with the fighting farm.
His decision to sacrifice his rugby league career came at a difficult time for the family.
The farm was in huge debt, his younger brother Jordan had been diagnosed with terminal cancer, and his parents Leanne and Ray were about to divorce.
But despite his selfless gesture in the years that followed, he claimed he had never been paid for his job, and despite his parents promising him part of the farm, they never delivered.
Blake Tremain-Cannon (photo with wife Danielle) was on the Newcastle Knights list for four years before moving to Peak Hill, central NSW, to help his parents on their fighting farm
After leaving the Newcastle Knights, Blake (left) took a $ 100,000-a-year job for his business, but later returned to the farm on what he believed was a promise of part of the family’s land through his mother Leanne (right). But the NSW Supreme Court ruled against him this week
The court heard how shortly after moving to Newcastle to pursue an NRL career with the Knights, his mother called him to discuss the farm’s $ 1 million debt.
She told Blake that she planned to divorce his father and asked him to come home for a family gathering.
At these meetings, he claimed that he had been told there was ‘room for him’ on the family’s farm if he wanted to return, but at the time, the 23-year-old was making $ 100,000 a year in recruiting for not breaking in. the first class of the knights.
But the diagnosis of his brother’s terminal illness saw everything change.
Blake and wife Danielle returned home, and after working on the farm for some time without payment, he eventually said to his parents, “I need some wages or income because I can’t keep working for free.”
In an affidavit filed with the court, Blake claims that his parents agreed to pay him, but were told “hang in there” and “it will be worth it” because of persistent debt.
Court documents claim that Blake worked on the farm for 80 hours a week without getting paid.
Although he often expressed concern, Blake was still told by his parents that he would ‘take advantage’ – but nothing was done until he and his wife Danielle threatened to leave, becoming the sole signatory on the farm checkbook.
Discussions about what Blake was entitled to have intensified after his brother passed away in April 2011.
Blake should be involved in the case immediately. It is his birthright and he has proven himself to be an asset to the company during a very difficult period, ”said Ray in a taped conversation at a family gathering.
In an affidavit to the court, Blake (pictured with his father Ray) claims that after working 80 hours a week without payment, his parents agreed to pay him a weekly wage but were told due to persistent debt “hang in there” and “it will be worth it to you”
At family gatherings after his parents’ divorce, Blake (far left) believed that his father Ray (left) and mother Leanne had promised to receive part of the farm, but it never happened
FROM FOOT TO FARM: A TIMELINE OF THE TREMAIN-CANNON BITTER FEUD
2002: Blake Tremain-Cannon scouted by the Newcastle Knights and leaves his family farm to pursue an NRL career.
2006: After not breaking through in first grade, he takes on a $ 100,000-a-year job for his company.
2008: Now that the family farm is in debt and his younger brother Jordan is diagnosed with terminal cancer, Blake returns to the country of NSW.
– Leanne Tremain also tells her son that she plans to divorce her husband Ray Cannon.
– Blake claims that he was told at meetings that the family “trusted” him and financially “that it would be worth him in the long run.”
2009: He works 80 hours a week without pay and says to his parents, “I need some kind of pay,” claiming his parents agree.
2011: Discussions on how Blake will benefit from the increase in the farm after his brother’s death.
2013-2015: Family gatherings continue, but his mother cancels an intended deal. Blake eventually starts legal action.
2020: Blake loses an NSW fight to the Supreme Court, with Judge Ian Harrison establishing that the contract was “non-binding”
“He deserves compensation for his efforts over the past three and a half years, and this inclusion in the partnership and country would ensure that he is sufficiently compensated and would give him a long-term future in business and industry. ‘
Talks with concerned accountants, lawyers and agricultural experts claim that Blake would receive a third of the agricultural assets, equal to his parents’ share.
But amid a severe drought, Blake continued to deposit money on the farm, he claimed as a result of “the promises made.”
Those promises were set out again at a meeting with Blake, his parents and a local agricultural expert in October 2012.
Ray: “I still want Blake to be a 1/3 partner in the company and on land.”
Leanne: “I haven’t changed my mind either and I think Blake does a fantastic job in difficult circumstances.”
Discussions continued into 2013, after which Blake worked on the farm for five years without payment.
He and his wife Danielle, a teacher, were forced to eat their savings and their “quality of life” was affected.
However, the court heard this week that Blake had received the equivalent of $ 100,000 in farm benefits annually, according to his mother.
Leanne had also raised concerns about what would happen to the farm if Blake and his wife Danielle broke up.
The court also heard that she had repeatedly encouraged her son to get an off-farm job, unsure about the future of the company.
NSW judge Ian Harrison said she was unlikely to make “contradictory promises or commitments to keep Blake on the family farm.”
Relations between Blake and his mother deteriorated quickly after she endured divorce talks with her ex-husband and later made racist comments to her son about her granddaughter.
The pain of the bitter family feud was exacerbated by the tragic death of Blake’s younger brother Jordan (left) in 2011, after a long battle with terminal cancer
The court also heard that despite Blake’s claims, Leanne repeatedly encouraged her son to get an off-farm job, unsure about the company’s future in the face of severe drought
“You better come home before you arrange this stuff and meet (your granddaughter),” Blake said in one text.
“Your child is being raised by a group of black boys. I will never have anything in common with it, ”Leanne replied.
‘My mistake. I’ll never ask you again, “Blake replied.
A few months later, Leanne canceled the planned collaboration.
In the end, Blake started legal proceedings in an attempt to get some of the money and property that he claimed was due to him.
But NSW judge Ian Harrison rejected his request, pointing out that there was no promise of “a binding contract” in terms of probability.
Justice Harrison also noted that during the various conversations and meetings, both with family and with advisers, an agreement was never “confirmed.”
He also found that after years of discussions, Leanne explicitly stated on some occasions that she wanted to ‘cancel’ the plans they had considered.
NSW judge Ian Harrison rejected Blake’s application (pictured with his wife Danielle), as there was a likelihood that there was no ‘binding contract’ meaning his mother agreed to a deal
“Leanne was under no obligation to correct what Blake might have thought or hoped in terms of reaching an agreement,” said Justice Harrison.
Despite Blake’s allegations throughout the case, Justice Harrison claimed that he believed his reasons for returning to the farm, and in fact staying there, were not because of his parents’ promises, but because he wanted to help his family.
“I am pleased that Blake’s decision to return to the family farm was made without reference to what his parents said or did back then or what they said or did afterward,” he said.
Blake’s request against his parents was denied and he was ordered to pay all legal costs.