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Parramatta’s Jarryd Hayne was king of the kids, Titan Esi Tonga was quizzed about his favourite fruits while teachers and students on the Central Coast dressed up in rival team colours as the NRL’s Community Carnival kicked off across Australia today.

NRL Chief Executive, Mr David Gallop, and the NRL All Stars team officially launched the Community Carnival in Blacktown, in Sydney’s west, as more than 500 NRL players and development officers began visiting schools and holding coaching clinics across the country.

Eels hero Hayne was swamped by fans at Blacktown’s H.E. Laybutt Field today, happily posing for photographs and signing autographs before joining the NRL All Stars for a Backyard League clinic reminiscent of his own days growing up playing footy in Minto.

At Logan, in Queensland, someone forgot to tell Woodridge North teacher Shane Goswell that it was the kids who were supposed to the most excited spectators when the Titans dropped in to visit.

Dressed from head to toe in Gold Coast colours – including painting his face with zinc – the self-confessed Titans tragic led a chorus of support for the players’ efforts in the community.

“It’s made my year having the Titans come to my school, the kids and I were so excited,” Mr Goswell said.

“The fact that they gave up their time to come and visit is such a thrill.”

On the Central Coast, children dressed in Manly jerseys while teachers stirred the pot by wearing Wests Tigers gear (Manly’s Round 1 opponents) as Sea Eagles stars such as Michael Robertson, Josh Perry and David Williams delivered the game’s Eat Well Play Well Stay well health message.

At Toyota Stadium, Sharks stars Paul Gallen, Trent Barrett, John Morris, Paul Aiton, Adam Cuthbertson and Nathan Stapleton joined 350 children from across the Shire for a special skills clinic before taking the Eat Well Play Well Stay Well message to more schools on the Central Coast.

Queensland Origin forward Matt Scott proved a hit with the kids at Prosperine as Cowboys stars embarked on a school blitz that will reach 13,000 students across 52 schools.

While Tonga talked about his love of rockmelon and pineapple as he was quizzed on his favourite foods, Titans team-mate Luke O’Dwyer returned to his old school at Banora Point to inspire others to follow in his footy footsteps.

“It’s always good to get back there and be able to relate to the kids from a small school to show that you can make it to the NRL,” O’Dwyer said.

The Community Carnival continues today as NRL players visit 400 schools in 78 communities stretching from Sydney to Perth, into far north Queensland, New Zealand and throughout rural and regional NSW and Queensland, handing out 6500 footballs, 30,000 posters and 500 Eat Well Play Well Stay well DVDs and classroom resource packs.

From helping students build community recreation areas, to school and hospital visits, junior coaching clinics and inspiring children to lead healthy and active lives, the game’s ninth Community Carnival will provide a focal point for the tens of thousands of hours that NRL clubs and stars dedicate each year to helping those in need.

Acknowledgement of Country

National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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