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After spending so much time in the country this year as part of my job with the NRL and the CRL, I really feel we need to develop a strategy that will alleviate the financial pressure on our bush clubs and help nurture the great talent that is in these areas.

The more presence and structure we can give to these country clubs the better. We want every young kid to aspire to play our great game but we need to pour a lot of resources into the bush. So many of our best past and present players are country kids and the more stable our bush clubs are, the better chance we are of having rugby league as the number one bush code.

One idea I think would work is giving our 16 NRL clubs an area to look after and fund. There are currently 500 clubs in country NSW. If each NRL team were to adopt 31 clubs each or 2-3 groups we could help these clubs enormously.

St George Illawarra would take the Illawarra and the south coast, say, to Nowra. Canberra have a big area and the far south coast; Melbourne have the Riverina and southern NSW; Penrith have a huge area plus the Blue Mountains; Newcastle have the Hunter. The city clubs like South Sydney and the Roosters could have the central NSW groups; Manly could look after northern NSW, etc.

Obviously the finer details would need to be nutted out but I think it would work. In return for the effort and money the NRL clubs put into their respective areas, the clubs would get first opportunity of the top juniors once they turn 17 or 18. The clubs would then have a vested interest in promoting the game and developing it properly as they will reap the benefits … that, and the peace of mind that they are doing the right thing by the game.

A lot of our country clubs feel alone and isolated. The CRL and NRL are doing their best with limited resources. Hopefully the new TV deal will see this change and our bush clubs will get the help they really need. Simple things like equipment, facilities, and jerseys for fundraisers are what country clubs want ... that and the knowledge that they are wanted and appreciated.

Being from Temora and still having a bit to do with the local footy club I know first hand how things are for them. Temora Schoolboys RL is having a fundraiser on October 22 to raise money to finish the club's dressing sheds and clubhouse. Ricky Stuart, Craig Young, Peter and Graeme Wynn and myself are all attending and hope to raise some cash for them and help them out.

The Men of League do a lot for the bush, as do the Former Origin Greats (FOGs), but it’s time we have a formal plan in place which will guarantee the survival of footy in the bush. It is the heart of our code and so many good people are voluntarily propping it up.

One program that really deserves a mention for helping grassroots rugby league is One Community’s Toyota Monster Raffle, which raised over $650,000 for grassroots rugby league clubs nationwide last year.

Introduced in 2007, it is the first of its kind in rugby league history and is a way for grassroots clubs to raise money for players and the club, without relying on one-off donations.
- Tickets cost $5.00 each.
-100% of any profits made are given back to clubs.
- Clubs retain 100% of monies raised.
- Great prizes to be won.
- Tickets and advertising material provided at NO cost to clubs.

This year Monster Raffle tickets can be purchased online for the first time, giving buyers the option to have the money they spend distributed to flood/cyclone-affected Queensland rugby league clubs or any other registered Leagues Club/body of their choice in Australia.

Every registered rugby league club in Australia has the opportunity to register for the raffle and sell tickets at no cost to the club, with 100 per cent of the profits going back to these clubs.

The prizepool is worth over $71,000 and ticket sales for this year's Monster Raffle close in just over seven weeks, on Friday, September 16.

For more information, click here.

N.B. The views expressed in “In Touch” are the author’s own and are not representative of the NRL.