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Australian Rugby League Commission Chief Executive, Mr David Gallop, has today congratulated over 350 NRL players for a community initiative that he says is unrivalled in Australian sport.

Over the past 24 days, players from all 16 NRL Clubs have reached more than 115,000 children across 170 towns in two countries and four Australian states as part of the biggest ever Community Carnival in the event’s 11-year history.

Speaking on the eve of tomorrow’s season launch for the 2012 Telstra Premiership, Mr Gallop said he was proud of the achievements by NRL players, Development Officers and One Community Ambassadors, whose 2012 Community Carnival efforts have touched the lives of children, teenagers, parents, teachers and fans alike, throughout local suburban areas, remote rural towns, inner city Rugby League grounds and coastal strips.

The 2012 Community Carnival, which kicked off on January 29, extended from Perth and Hobart, to Innisfail in Far North Queensland and Gunnedah in north-eastern NSW, and to New Zealand, touching the lives of children at more than 440 schools as well as at junior Rugby League clubs, hospitals and community centres.

This year’s Community Carnival, which saw an increase in reach from 70,000 children in 2011 to more than 115,000 over the past three weeks, marks the start of a year that will once again see NRL players spend more than 26,000 hours in the community.

“The enormity of this achievement cannot be overestimated and I congratulate our players for embracing their responsibilities as role models and leaders in the community to the level that they have,” Mr Gallop said.

“Community Carnival is a way for our game to share important messages with children across Australia and New Zealand about the importance of leading a healthy lifestyle, reading and respecting people of all cultural backgrounds.

“We know the children benefit from these visits, as do the players, who have the chance to get out into the community and see just how much of a difference Rugby League makes in helping and inspiring people.

“Likewise our players gain inspiration from these visits as they prepare for the season ahead.”

Across the past 24 days, the players have also participated in an additional 20 community events including mayoral visits, Come and Try clinics and local fundraisers and charity lunches along with working with local Junior Rugby League Clubs across the country with sign-on days, training clinics and coaching updates.

Just as important as the visits to remote and country towns in NSW and Queensland, were the visits in Rugby League heartlands like today’s final 2012 Community Carnival activities, which included the Rabbitohs Gala Day at Erskineville Oval and the tour of the Greater Western Sydney by the Eels, engaging 16,000 students.

“The schools we’ve visited today are all in our backyard of Western Sydney and I know from the players’ perspective, connecting with so many school children is a way of showing how important our local community is to us,” said Eels skipper Nathan Hindmarsh.

“Plenty of our guys, including me, have young children and I know every player at the club wants to see all these school kids thrive on and off the sporting field, so I hope they get just as much out of the Community Carnival as we do.”

This year’s Community Carnival has featured countless highlights including a visit by the Cowboys to Richmond in Far North Queensland with a population of less than 1000; Canberra’s Joel Thompson reliving his own Community Carnival experience in Wagga Wagga; and Brisbane’s Petero Civoniceva’s return to the oval where his career began in Redcliffe.

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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