Tyrone Peachey began dreaming of becoming an NRL star after watching his uncle David play for Cronulla in the 1999 grand final qualifier and now the Titans utility wants to inspire other young Indigenous kids from his home town of Wellington to do the same.
Peachey - a member of NSW’s successful 2018 State of Origin team who is set to make his sixth appearance for the Indigenous All Stars in the February 20 fixture in Townsville - still clearly recalls the impact the time spent with David and attending the match had on him as a 10-year-old.
It was the first time Peachey had been to Sydney and he had never seen the sea or even a two-storey house before.
While the Sharks lost 24-8 after St George Illawarra five-eighth Anthony Mundine scored a hat-trick of second-half tries, watching two Indigenous stars dominate one of the biggest games of the season opened his eyes up to what he could achieve.
After a series of recent tragedies in Wellington, Peachey now hopes he can have a similar influence and has established The Peach Project with the aim of giving boys or girls from the western NSW town an opportunity to attend Gold Coast matches this season.
"Back in Wellington there have recently been a few bad things happen," Peachey said. "Some young kids got hit by a car and passed away, and before that a kid got into a fight and was stabbed and died. They were Indigenous.
"One thing I have learned over the years of playing football is that I want to help and give back to my community, and the younger kids, so if I can give someone the opportunity to come to the Gold Coast and see what it is like to be a footballer that can hopefully change their lives.
"I just want to give them a chance to come to a game and hopefully come into the sheds and meet their idols.
"I grew up in Wellington and my first opportunity to go to an NRL game was to see David Peachey and Anthony Mundine play in that finals game in 1999.
"I knew from that day that I wanted to play football for a living and that is when my dream started so I am hoping that The Peach Project can change a kid’s life like that and help them to figure out their goals."
Peachey’s family are heavily involved in the Wellington community and his grandmother, Myrene Elemes, is a local Indigenous leader.
The 29-year-old utility's parents, Annette and Martin, have moved back to Wellington, as has David, who played 232 matches for Cronulla between 1994 and 2005 before finishing his career with South Sydney in 2007.
"I speak to my Nan a fair bit and things are pretty bad at the moment, especially with those two tragedies," Peachey said of the deaths of brothers Shane and Sheldon Shorey, aged seven and six, after being run down by a car and 24-year-old Brad Stanley, who was stabbed in a brawl.
"There are a lot of drugs but my Nan is trying to clean it up and she has been talking to the land council, and the government, and the police, to try and better it herself.
"I went to pre-school in the Nanima Mission out there so I know exactly how these kids have grown up and the situations they are put in."
Peachey moved to Cronulla at 10 and the opportunity to live with David changed his life.
I know exactly how these kids have grown up and the situations they are put in.Tyrone Peachey
"He was a legend at Cronulla and to live with him at the time when he was in his prime and see the way everyone looked up to him, especially all the Indigenous kids, was awesome," he said.
"I figured out that I wanted to have a life like this, I wanted to have a house like that and I knew what I wanted to do from a young age.
"I want to give these kids an avenue to be able to do the same thing and open their eyes to the fact it is possible for someone from Wellington to be famous and be whoever they want be."
David Peachey was well known for his community work, particularly in the bush, while playing for the Sharks and Rabbitohs, and Tyrone also wants to have a similar impact off the field.
He has been working with Roy Ah See, a former chair of the NSW Aboriginal Land Council and advisor to Malcolm Turnbull when he was Prime Minister, who is a mentor for Peachey and is involved with the Nanima Connection team he plays for at the annual Koori Knockout.
NRL head of Indigenous strategy Mark deWeerd is another who has helped Peachey establish The Peach Project.
It had been hoped to begin the initiative earlier but COVID-19 restrictions delayed its launch and Peachey is now hoping to obtain some sponsorship or funding.
"I wanted to organise something for All Stars but it has been a bit hard with the borders being shut so we are hoping to get it up and running for the NRL season," Peachey said.
"We are going to pick kids who follow rugby league and have been going to school. We are going to check their attendances and if they are good kids we are going to give them the chance to either come to the Gold Coast or come to a Titans game.
"I just want to start this to give the kids a bit of hope and make them realise that what they can achieve."
All Stars men's match
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