In an unlikely match up, 10 primary school students from Western Sydney emerged victorious today in a friendly game of Backyard League between the Kids All Stars and the NRL All Stars at Western Weekender Stadium in St Marys that marked the official start of Rugby League’s tenth annual Community Carnival.
Eleven year old Rugby League young gun Maurice Trindall from Wilmot in Sydney was chosen to lead the Kids All Stars, lining up against names like Darren Lockyer, Benji Marshall and Josh Dugan in a game that tested some of the biggest stars in the NRL with a series of modified rules.
Selected for their commitment, teamwork and skill, the 10 students put into play the Backyard League philosophy that children of all ages and skill levels are able to enjoy Rugby League, with rules including two hands on the ball at all times, touch not tackle and kids get three passes before each touch.
“This has been a great way to start the All Stars week and I know all the players really enjoyed themselves today,” NRL All Stars and Panthers forward Petero Civoniceva said.
“A game of backyard footy was the first time a lot of us played Rugby League and today was a reminder of the things we love about the game and how it’s something kids of all ages and abilities can enjoy.
“It was really inspiring to watch the way these kids negotiated the rules among themselves and then with us – they had thought of a way for everyone to be involved which made it fair and really fun.”
One Community Ambassadors Hazem el Masri and Mario Fenech also took part in Backyard League clinics today, joining the 200 students from the 10 local schools that attended Western Weekender Stadium for a game, as well as kicking and try scoring clinics and lessons on Rugby League’s Eat Well Play Well Stay Well healthy lifestyle program.
Now in its 10th year, the 2011 Community Carnival will be the game’s biggest yet, with more than 500 NRL players and ARL Development officers visiting 70,000 children across 118 towns and covering 2,800 kilometres, from Adelaide and Tasmania and Longreach in Queensland.
“Western Sydney is Rugby League’s heartland and today’s visit by the NRL All Stars shows just how important our game is among the community here,” NRL Chief Executive Mr David Gallop said.
“Bringing so many of the game’s stars to Western Sydney is a chance for us to thank the community for their support and the kids there today were certainly having a lot of fun meeting their heroes and taking them on in a game of Backyard League.
“The 200 students at St Marys today are just some of the 70,000 kids across the country that our game will visit over the month as the Community Carnival and Harvey Norman Rugby League All Stars kick off the 2011 season in spectacular fashion.
Today’s Community Carnival activities also saw the Sharks, Dragons, Sea Eagles, Rabbitohs and Titans visit schools in Nowra, Griffith, Redfern, Dubbo and Kingscliff.
Titan’s player Kayne Lawton returned to his roots this morning when he visited his old primary schools, Kingscliff Primary School and Pottsville Primary School. Having played Rugby League from age five, Kayne’s visit to his old stomping grounds helped share the importance of harmony in all aspects of life and saw him join students at Pottsvile Primary School for a minute’s silence to commemorate the second anniversary of the Black Saturday Victorian Bushfires.
Further north, Cowboys players were today on their way to visit the Cyclone Yasi affected town of Innisfail where Scott Bolton and Gavin Cooper will hold an impromptu skills session and BBQ at Callender Park (Innisfail) this evening for local children who have been unable to attend school this past week.
Tomorrow, the Bulldogs will arrive in Adelaide for a community barbeque with local schools, while fellow Western Sydney club Wests Tigers will visit schools in their heartland of Campbelltown.
Celebrating a decade of success, Community Carnival will see school and hospital visits, junior coaching clinics and programs and take the game’s healthy lifestyle, education, cultural diversity and harmony initiatives into the classrooms of 280 schools around Australia.
It will also see some of the game’s biggest stars including Manly’s David Williams, Canterbury-Bankstown’s Bryson Goodwin and Parramatta’s Jarryd Hayne deliver an important new education and welfare resource, One Community’s ‘Dream Believe Achieve’, into high schools nationally.
‘Dream Believe Achieve’ uses a documentary style DVD that includes players telling their own individual stories to engage the students and communicate the important messages of setting goals, staying in school and life balance to students.