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With just over a week until the start of the 2010 Telstra Premiership, Rugby League has today launched an innovative campaign to drive children into Australia’s backyards to share in the excitement of the Telstra Premiership.

Nathan Hindmarsh, Jarryd Hayne and Michael Jennings were some of the big names on hand at ANZ Stadium with NRL Chief Executive David Gallop and more than 400 boys and girls to unveil a Harvey Norman Backyard Rugby League program that will see 250,000 footballs sailing over fences during the next three years.

Harvey Norman’s backyard partnership with ARL Development was unveiled on the same day as all sixteen NRL teams were represented on a Sydney Harbour photo shoot with a giant Telstra Premiership trophy, signaling the final countdown to the 2010 competition.

From there they joined team-mates and 11-13 year old boys and girls from nine schools on the field of ANZ Stadium for a first-hand experience of just how Harvey Norman Backyard League will help get children of all ages and all skill levels having fun in a safe and structured environment.

ARLD General Manager, Bill Palmer outlined how Backyard League would reach more than 750,000 primary and high school students nationally each year, while Harvey Norman Chief Operating Officer, John Slack-Smith detailed how Harvey Norman franchises would help encourage children to get active with Backyard League kits.

The launch of the program comes as Rugby League enjoys record levels of junior participation and as an unprecedented number of supporters sign up as NRL club members.

“It’s a great way to start the season and one that reminds us all of the excitement and the fun that Rugby League brings to people’s lives,” NRL Chief Executive Mr David Gallop said today.

“Importantly, this is a game that not only gets kids active but which encourages communication skills and helps bring home Rugby League’s Eat Well Play Well Stay Well message.

“Through Backyard League, kids can negotiate their own rules in a way that allows them to identify with the game they see at NRL grounds or on television but also in a way that allows them to be kids and to set rules around their own level of ability.”

ARL Development General Manager Mr Bill Palmer said the concept was a first for Australian sport and one that brought together a number of important skills.

“Harvey Norman Backyard League will allow more children across Australia to play Rugby League because it can be played by boys and girls together, of all sizes and abilities,” he said.

“It’s a more informal style of Rugby League that gives children the basics to play anywhere, anytime - they learn the fundamental skills to play and the confidence to play safely because they can adapt the game to suit the group, whether the students are involved for one lesson or five.

“For example, if there is a faster player in the group, they can decide among themselves that player has to be touched by one hand to constitute a tackle, whereas a slower player may need to be touched by three or four hands.”

The standard five-week program involves an ARL Development Officer teaching the basic Backyard League skills and Eat Well Play Well Stay Well message in Weeks One and Two and then returning in Week Five for an intra-school gala day.

In Weeks Three and Four, children will practice negotiating the format and rules of the game, and playing cooperatively, which will be facilitated by their teachers and supported by Backyard League kits from local Harvey Norman franchisees.

A long-time supporter of Rugby League, Harvey Norman has extended its commitment to supporting the game’s grassroots through Harvey Norman Backyard League.

“Our broad relationship with the game will be positively impacted by the introduction of Backyard League in 2010,” said Harvey Norman Chief Operating Officer, Mr John Slack-Smith.

“This program has terrific potential and we look forward to supporting its growth this year and beyond.”

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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