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NRL stars will deliver Rugby League's powerful new anti-bullying message to a record of more than 120,000 students across Australia, New Zealand, Tonga and Samoa next month as a part of a game-wide campaign announced today.

NRL Interim Chief Executive, Mr Shane Mattiske, today joined General Manager of Community, Culture and Diversity, Ms Trish Crews, and media personality and Rugby League fan, Ms Charlotte Dawson, to officially launch this year’s Community Carnival which will focus on the NRL’s ‘Tackle Bullying’ campaign.

NRL players David Williams (Sea Eagles), John Morris (Sharks), Kaysa Pritchard (Eels) and Josh Mansour (Panthers) were also at today’s launch and they will be among more than 350 players from all 16 NRL Clubs who will travel more than 40,000km across four countries during the 28 days of the Community Carnival.

Kicking off next week (January 31) as children return to school across the country, the 2013 Community Carnival will deliver important lessons on the effects of bullying and the importance of building positive self-esteem through a powerful DVD and other resources.

Players will also deliver 25,000 anti-bullying banner pens, 10,000 water bottles, 3,200 bags, pencil cases and stationery sets, 30,000 wrist bands and 150,000 player and ambassador cards during the community initiative which is unrivalled in Australian sport.

Mr Mattiske said Rugby League’s 12th annual Community Carnival is the ideal platform for launching the NRL’s ‘Tackle Bullying’ campaign with the most recent Australian Government study into bullying revealing one in four (27%) Australian students (Year 4-9) are bullied frequently .

“Community Carnival is a special time of year where a huge contingent of players travel far and wide to visit those areas that don’t usually get the chance to come face-to-face with NRL players,” Mr Mattiske said.

“This year’s ‘Tackle Bullying’ message is an important one, with the effects of bullying well documented in the media.

“We know from experience that students listen when NRL players visit the classroom and if our players can help provide them with some tools to combat bullying then hopefully we can make a positive difference to their lives.”

The game’s community programs were internationally recognised last year with Rugby League named the International Governing Body of the Year at the prestigious Beyond Sport Awards in London.

One Community Ambassadors Andrew Ryan, Hazem El Masri, Mario Fenech and Nathan Hindmarsh feature in the DVD the NRL has produced to help students tackle bullying. The DVD forms part of a number of resources that also include in-class activity books and teacher packs.  

Ms Charlotte Dawson, who is involved with an anti-cyber-bullying initiative, has endorsed the NRL’s campaign which kicks off in schools next week.

“This is an issue that is very close to my heart and something that I feel extremely passionate about,” said Ms Dawson.

“If students are equipped with the skills to deal with bullying from a young age, as well as being taught the harmful effects that bullying can have, hopefully one day every student will feel safe at school and online.

“I believe the most important lesson in dealing with bullying is to speak out against it and that is exactly what the NRL is encouraging students to do.”

The NRL has had previous experience working in the area of anti-bullying with NRL Player Welfare and Education Programs Manager and former player, Mr Nigel Vagana, working with the Australian Federal Police to deliver a cyber-bullying program in Tonga and Samoa over the past two years.

Samoa will be the starting point of Rugby League’s 2013 Community Carnival next Thursday (January 31) with Warriors players visiting schools and the local community.

Other locations that will embrace 2013 Community Carnival celebrations include Mount Isa and Cairns in Queensland; Dubbo and Merimbula in New South Wales; and Geelong in Victoria.    

One activity the NRL players will facilitate throughout Community Carnival is ‘drop-a-note box’, which sees classmates write anonymous positive affirmations about their fellow students, with the goal to build self-esteem and self-confidence.

The ‘drop-a-note box’ activity has been used by Bulldogs coach Des Hasler on his players in recent years, during which time his teams (Bulldogs and Sea Eagles) have played in four of the past six Grand Finals, winning two.

“It is simple but powerful and I have seen the benefits an activity like that has in helping to build an individual’s self-esteem and self-confidence,” said Hasler.

“It is amazing what people can achieve through positive affirmation and having our NRL players deliver that message is also a powerful tool.

“Bullying can occur in so many forms and at so many levels. There is no place for bullies, on or off the football field.”

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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