Young Raiders making a big impact in schools
Eighteen Canberra Raiders NYC players are currently working in the ACT public school education system as learning support assistants.
The program, organised by the Raiders development and welfare staff, started off with a couple of players and has grown extremely quickly over the past year.
ACT Minister for Sport and Education Yvette Berry visited Melba Copland Secondary School on Monday morning to find out more about the program and meet with three Raiders NYC players, Sam Bramich, Matt Lyons and Sato Ketia-Opo, currently working as learning support assistants.
Ms Berry spoke highly of the work the young Raiders have been doing and the benefit it will have on students in the schools.
"It's really great opportunity for the young people across Canberra's public schools to meet some role models in a sport they may aspire to," Ms Berry said.
It's also important for these young men to have a chance to expand their horizons, not just in a sporting career.
"We want to expand on the relationship with the Raiders. Sport and education go beautifully together so it's great to have role models like Sam, Sato and Matt come along to the school."
Sam Bramich, who is currently studying to be a teacher, said working as a learning support assistant has been exciting and a great experience.
"It's really exciting to work with the kids – I enjoy it a lot. It's been a great experience. Coming straight from school is a bit challenging since I'm close to their age, but I still find I get respect and I really enjoy the opportunity," Bramwich said.
"You never know what can happen with footy so it's great to have that second option. You don't want to put all your eggs in one basket. You never have the same sort of day, it's never boring."
While extremely beneficial for the students, the program has made a difference on and off the field for Ketia-Opo.
"Working with kids helps me build my confidence as a person and as a footy player. Hopefully I get the chance to go to more schools around the ACT," Ketia-Opo said.
Matt Lyons echoed Ketia-Opo's thoughts.
"It's something I've always wanted to do. I've always wanted to help kids and if footy doesn't work out it's what I want to do in the future," Lyons said.
With only a small number of NYC players making it through to the NRL squad each year, having a back-up plan for life after football is extremely important for young players.
Feedback has been excellent from the students and teachers the players have come into contact with and the Raiders will be looking to keep improving this program onto bigger and better things.