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Players hit the Road to Regions for a good cause

Players from almost every NRL club recently visited rural towns for the annual Road to Regions blitz, mixing with locals in drought- and bushfire-affected areas, promoting the game and educating students on respect.

The likes of Parramatta's Reed Mahoney, Canberra's Elliott Whitehead, Canterbury's Kieran Foran, Cronulla's Jayson Bukuya, South Sydney's Corey Allan, Gold Coast's Dale Copley and St George Illawarra's Jordan Pereira participated from February 10-14.

NRLW reps Millie Boyle, Ruan Sims, Amber Pilley, Jasmin Allende, Vanessa Foliaki and Stephanie Hancock also went to places across the eastern seaboard that usually only see first-grade talent on TV.

The Road to Regions program normally concludes after five days but in light of the bushfire crisis over the summer, it has been extended until the end of the month through club-led initiatives.

Jillaroos, Queensland and Broncos NRLW forward Boyle visited Mt Isa and Cloncurry alongside rookie Cowboys hooker Reuben Cotter.

NRL road to regions 2020

The pair spent delivered messages from the League Stars 'Inspire Respect' program to school students during the day before hosting coaching clinics in the afternoon.

"Obviously for inner-west Queensland, North Queensland to have a Broncos and Cowboys player there was really cool because they either went for one of those teams," Boyle told NRL.com.

"I'm from a small community myself, so it was good to get out there and see how keen the kids were to play some footy ... It was really good to see the participation of all the kids, both boys and girls.

"We did a bit of a presentation with them [at the schools] and a bit of workshopping around how we respect ourselves and others."

According to Boyle, the local game development officers said the turnouts for the skills clinics were among the biggest they've had.

The extended Road to Regions kicked off in late January when the Dragons and Sharks squads took it upon themselves to help recovering bushfire-ravaged towns on the NSW south coast.

Several other clubs have ventured to suffering regions as they put the pieces back together after the devastation.

Titans player Dale Copley meets students as part of the Road to Regions in Lightning Ridge.
Titans player Dale Copley meets students as part of the Road to Regions in Lightning Ridge. ©NRL Photos

Road to Regions will finish with the Bulldogs-Raiders pre-season match in Port Macquarie on February 28 and the EISS Super Sapphire Trial Tribute between the Panthers and Eels in Bega on the 29th.

The teams will engage in a range of community activities in the lead-up to their games.

"All the clubs have gone above and beyond to help us expand and get into those communities who need their spirits," NRL head of government and community relations Jaymes Boland-Rudder said last month.

"It's sending an important message to those of us that are lucky enough to sit in Sydney or Brisbane and haven't had the impacts of fire: those communities are open for business, go and visit those communities because their local economies are really hurting."