A conversation between former Australian captain Brad Fittler and master coach Wayne Bennett was the catalyst for a new rugby league based game aimed at helping underprivileged children across Australia.
‘Speed League’ is a community based sport designed by Fittler to encourage people of all ages to use the PCYC in their local area and help kids stay involved in Rugby League.
The game which will be launched on February 29 in front of a host of rugby league stars, past and present, with money raised on the night going to the Men of League Foundation and the PCYC.
“I started with Wayne Bennett and wanted to know what I should do and how to get started and he said just talk to people and ask people about it,” Fittler told NRL.com.
“There is a community idea around it, getting people into the PCYC, both adults and children.
“There has always been a perception that people who use PCYC’s are offenders and parents have had this idea that they are a rough place, but sending kids to the PCYC is ideal and they have great facilities. They are all across Australia.
“The idea of the game is that it allows all people all over Australia to stay involved in Rugby League, the last thing we want to do is take kids out of other points of rugby league – this is purely for the PCYC.
The former Australian and New South Wales five-eighth started trialling his game with a focus on quick ball skills, finding space and improving vision.
South Sydney’s Toyota Cup squad were the first to be used as a sounding board, before Tim Sheens and the Wests Tigers used the game at training to improve Fittler’s invention.
“We started off with rules with what we thought the game was going to look like and it evolved quite quickly into something completely different,” Fittler said.
“It needed to be able to be adapted from a basketball court up to a full football field.
“Sheens allowed me to take it to the Wests Tigers and they used it at training. We found that it was really fast paced and they seemed to enjoy it.”
The game had evolved and crafted its own identity, it was time to trial it with its intended participants, kids.
“We took it to Mt Druitt to a PCYC and got the kids involved and they loved it,” Fittler said.
“They were stuffed, they had to work really hard and the game was really fast. It involves a lot of skills that are getting lost from the game a bit.
“Working on vision, getting into space, short passes, things that are leaking out of our game a bit.
“Our game has become a lot more about power and some of those nicer details of our sport have been lost, I guess that is what I was trying to achieve, helping encourage those skills and improving them.”
As part of the initiative, the PCYC will allow any Men of League member or former player who comes in and gets involved in the game to use the facilities for free.
A Charity dinner titled Leap into 2012 will launch Speed League on February 29, with funds raised going to the PCYC and the Men of League Foundation.
“The night is going to be fun, it is going to be about rugby league,” Fittler said.
“We are inviting 250 people and they are going to be the biggest identities in our game. There are going to be heaps of NRL stars, coaches, politicians, media personalities, administration and we are allowing the general public a chance to be there as well, with 100 tickets to be auctioned off.
“We’ll also be raising money by auctioning off signed photos and other things.”