It certainly has been a hectic start to the year in my role as an NRL Ambassador! Spending time last week in the Wide Bay Region – hit hard in the Australia Day Floods at the start of the year – was one of my busiest times to date.
On Monday April 1, I flew into Harvey Bay where I was met by NRL Game Development Officer Richard Dugdale, who had co-ordinated my visit. We drove to Biggenden State School, 150 kilometres west of Harvey Bay. We conducted a coaching clinic with 32 participants ranging from 5-15 years – 14 of whom were non-rugby league players. It was a great clinic with plenty of enthusiastic participants.
From Biggenden we travelled 60 kilometres north-west to the town of Gayndah, located on the Burnett River. This town had recently been affected by major flooding so we were more than happy to be there to put some smiles on faces. We were met by fellow ambassador Mario Fenech. Our Gayndah clinic had 73 participants.
That evening we met with the local community and the rugby league club at the Golden Orange Hotel, which again had been inundated in the recent floods. It was a great turn-out with approximately 140 people in attendance, including the Mayor. We enjoyed the Gayndah hospitality with a BBQ and plenty of autographs and photos.
On Tuesday April 2 we hit the road early to the township of Gin Gin, 120 kilometres north- east of Gayndah. Gin Gin was another success, with our clinic attracting 31 participants. We were back on the road then to Bundaberg, 50 kilometres east of Gin Gin. Mario and I headed straight to the Bundaberg Base Hospital for a visit. We were greeted with plenty of smiles from patients and staff, plenty of whom were devoted rugby league supporters – even the odd South Sydney supporter for Mario! We then made our way to Salter Oval where we met up with Development Officers Paul Dyer and former NRL players Mick Hancock and Michael Devere from the Brisbane Broncos. We were there to conduct a coaching update with 20 junior and senior coaches.
On Wednesday April 3 we said goodbye to Mario and made our way to Salter Oval again for the Bundaberg Super Coaching Clinic. Richard Dugdale was surprised by the numbers who attended. He was hopeful of 100-plus kids; instead we had 336 participants ranging from 5-15 years of age – 63 of whom were non-rugby league players.
After the success of the Bundaberg clinic we hopped in the car again and travelled to Gympie, 210 kilometres south of Bundaberg. I received a great reception at Gympie Junior Rugby League, where plenty of photos were taken and autographs signed.
Then it was time to head hope back to Redcliffe, 170 kilometres south of Gympie.
All up it was a great success; getting the opportunity to travel out to the country and regional areas is very satisfying when you get to meet people who are so passionate about rugby league. In total we had 472 participants engaged in our clinics – including 103 non-club rugby league players!
I am looking forward to returning to the region and picking up where we left off, continuing to grow the game in the rugby league heartland of the Wide Bay region.