Beau Ryan pays tribute to junior league

Eight years in first-grade, 126 NRL games and 53 tries... as NRL careers go, Beau Ryan did better than most. 

The former Wests Tiger and Cronulla Shark has become a popular star with Channel 9 through his regular stints on The Footy Show, but before he was a television sensation his rugby league journey all started at Sid Parrish Park as a junior for Wests Devils in the Illawarra region. 

"The coach for West Illawarra lived in my street and told me to come have a game," Ryan recalled about his entry into rugby league.

"I was a bit hesitant. So he drove me out to my first game.

"It turned out to be some of the best years of my life, I'm so happy I made the decision to come out and play."

With most junior competitions set to kick off in the coming weeks, junior rugby league is anticipating its biggest year on record with close to 100,000 players across 8800 teams and 1300 clubs from the under-6s to under-18s already registered for the 2015 season in Australia.

"Reflecting on my junior playing days at Wests Devils in Illawarra, I am thrilled to be helping to spread the NRL message around PlayNRL," Ryan said.

"I had some of the best years of my life playing junior rugby league. There are times I'll never forget and my experiences definitely made me better as a person and as a player.

"It's fantastic to see a whole round dedicated to acknowledging the mums and dads, ball boys, coaches and referees, volunteers from the canteen and those who run the business side of the clubs, as without them there would be no game."

Ryan was back at Sid Parish Park as the game gets ready to celebrate the inaugural Play NRL Round. He said the memories that were created on these fields will never be forgotten. 

"Coming back here and looking at the grounds, I get tingles," he said.

"The games we played here and the rivalries, they are very special to me. 

"Hopefully I can influence a kid, not just to make the NRL, but to get out and live an active lifestyle. That is really what it is all about."

As part of the themed round, Ryan will front an advertising campaign and be involved in a "Golden Boot" game for kids and families.

Round 3 of the Telstra Premiership is PlayNRL Round where the game will celebrate all that’s great about grassroots rugby league. 

Rugby league is all about having fun, making friends and staying healthy. The NRL is using this round to help promote junior rugby league and thank you, our future stars and fans and heroes who help make it all possible.

Join the conversation at #PlayNRL, get your tickets at nrl.com/tickets and get to a game. Talk to your local junior club about signing up as a player or volunteer and join the thousands of people who make rugby league great.