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Rising Panthers star Wade Graham still remembers being an ‘awestruck’ kid attending coaching clinics with his NRL heroes – today the teenager was among a host of NRL players inspiring a new generation at the Community Carnival.

More than 2000 children today played alongside NRL stars from the Panthers, Wests Tigers, Eels and Bulldogs in a Western Sydney coaching clinic blitz that showcased the game’s ‘Eat Well Play Well Stay Well’ health message.

It’s a message that more than 500 NRL players and development officers are carrying across Australia this week as they visit areas across regional and rural NSW and Queensland, Victoria, New Zealand and Western Australia, while the NRL All Stars and Indigenous All Stars have converged on the Gold Coast in the game’s biggest ever Community Carnival.

In a united effort from the four Western Sydney NRL clubs, Graham joined the likes of Bulldogs hooker Michael Ennis, Wests Tigers prop Keith Galloway and Eels winger Eric Grothe at Belmore Oval, while other clinics were held at Parramatta Stadium, Penrith’s CUA Stadium and Campbelltown’s Bradbury Oval.

“Being a Western Sydney junior, it’s great to see so many kids out and about, not just doing Rugby League but sport in general and it’s great to see the clubs supporting it as well,” Graham said today.

“I did a few clinics when I was younger, we would have NRL players come out to the schools, and we’re doing similar things here, and it was awesome.

“I remember being a kid, and you’re just awestruck by the NRL players, so it’s great to see nothing much has changed and to get out into the community.”

Ennis added: “It’s a great game Rugby League, whether it’s boys or girls, especially at this age, it teaches them such good qualities.

“Not only will they make some friends here today, they’ll also learn a lot of hand-eye co-ordination, team building, little drills that will benefit them for many years to come, and they’ll go home tonight and have a laugh about it with mum and dad.”

NSW Origin star and new Eels recruit Justin Poore, who was among the players at today’s clinics at Parramatta Stadium, added: “It’s great that One Community has put this on for the kids. They get a lot of enjoyment out of it, they learn and they get to exercise while they’re at it.”

The Community Carnival excitement extended from Western Sydney to the far west of the state today as Rabbitohs stars visited Nyngan and Bourke.

Nyngan Hospital was draped in Rabbitohs colours for the visit, while the players found themselves the targets of an unusual challenge – an arm wrestling contest – from Brewarrina kindergarten student Grace.

For young Rabbitohs flyer Luke Capewell, who hails from the rural Queensland town of Charleville, the visit carried special importance.

“I know what it is like living in a small rural area. You don’t often get the opportunity to meet NRL players,” Capewell said.

“It is great to be able to do this for the kids and get out of Sydney. It is a big deal for these kids, which is special.”

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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