Mitch Brown loves junior rugby league
He spent five seasons plying his trade outside of the Shire, but Cronulla Sharks winger Mitch Brown is back playing for the team he loves in the area he grew up playing rugby league as a kid.
There aren't many more passionate players about junior rugby league than Brown, who grew up playing for his local junior team in the Cronulla-Sutherland District Rugby Football League.
"I loved playing for my local club the Gymea Gorillas and I still love the Gorillas now," Brown said.
"I try to go down as much as I can and I go to the presentations and everything like that, I'm still involved.
"My dad has always been a big part of it as well, helping to run the club and all that."
Asked what he would say to youngsters considering giving league a go, Brown said that everyone should enjoy it.
"It's the best experience I've ever had to be able to play for my local club after playing as a local junior in the area," the 27-year-old winger said.
"Playing in front of all my mates and playing for the team I supported as a little kid is just the best feeling in the world."
Despite five successful seasons away from the Sharks, playing for the Wests Tigers and the Bulldogs, Brown has always wanted to come back to play at Cronulla.
"I've lived here my whole life, I've never moved, I just travelled," Brown said.
"I remember standing here waiting for ET [Andrew Ettingshausen] as a little kid. I've been a Sharks supporter since I can remember and I was born in Sutherland Hospital so I'm a Shire boy through and through.
"I've always supported the Sharks and I always wanted to come back when I left."
Brown's passion for local junior footy is great for the Sharks but it has also created some tension in the sheds.
While Brown has his allegiances tied up with the Gymea Gorillas, Sharks hooker Michael Ennis has his kids playing with archrivals De La Salle.
"There's a bit of rivalry actually, I give a bit of stick to Mick because his kids play for De La at the moment," Brown said.
"De La Salle and Gymea have the beef."
The Cronulla Sharks teamlist for Round 3 contains no local juniors, however Brown is sure that will change soon with some great local talent coming up through the grades.
"I'm the only local junior [at the Sharks] apart from Anthony Moratis who is actually a fellow Gorilla," Brown said.
"He's only a pup, so he's back in the 20s this year but he did a full pre-season with us.
"He's an outstanding young fella, he's very mature and he reminds me a lot of Dale Finucane, very similar sort of player.
"He's got a big future and he's only young. It won't surprise me if he's pushing for a spot in first grade this year."
Meanwhile a number of other Sharks have this week urged youngster to get involved in junior footy.
Jeff Robson, who played his junior football at Leighton Junior Rugby League Club in the Riverina area, was hugely appreciative of the opportunity he has had from playing league.
"I always loved playing footy and making new friends," Robson said.
"They are lifetime friends right now so I'm really happy with that.
"Train hard, play hard, and you'll never know what'll happen."
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.