The NRL has launched club rugby league for 2022, with NRL CEO Andrew Abdo hoping to see junior footy back and uninterrupted after two years of COVID chaos and pledging to do more for grassroots footy.
Star Manly fullback Tom Trbojevic and Eels NRLW recruit Kennedy Cherrington were on hand for the launch at Willoughby Park on Thursday along with Nine personality Karl Stefanovic, with each spending time addressing players from the Willoughby Roos.
"After two years of having disruptions to work, to school, community sport, it's exciting to think about what can be in 2022," Abdo said.
"Barbeques, seeing our kids play, all the benefits of playing a team sport. Today's a really important day.
"This is where the future stars are born but most importantly it's the sense of community and belonging that I think we're all longing for after two hard years."
The Willoughby Roos is the junior club of legendary immortal Norm Provan, who passed away last year.
"Last year we lost one of our immortals. What can we learn from Norm?" Abdo said.
"He was a pioneer. He believed in fitness, he believed in discipline and he believed in going the extra one percent for performance.
"He learned his football on this field, at this club. In 1963 he played in that immortal grand final and of course our premiership trophy has the image of Norm and Arthur Summons embracing.
The day the Provan brothers battled it out for a premiership
"What did we learn from Norm and Arthur in that 1963 grand final? Not who won the match. The other aspect of rugby league and sport - mateship. You can be fierce rivals on the field but you can be friends off it.
"The power of sport brings us together. It teaches us about physical strength and it also teaches us about what's possible if we really put our mind to things."
Trbojevic spoke about the importance of his junior club, the Mona Vale Raiders, on his development.
"It's turned me into the player I am today and what Mona Vale has done for me has been awesome," he said.
"Not only footy but it's turned me into the person I am. Created great values for me to live by and created great memories and mates I'll have forever. I'll forever be thankful to the Mona Vale Raiders and the grassroots program I went through."
Cherrington told the girls at the Willoughby Roos to take advantage of the growing female pathways on offer.
"It's so awesome to see the girls have their own team, they're not a part of the boys' team like I was back in 10s, 11s and 12s," Cherrington said.
"You guys can be where I am in a few years so keep at it, there's a clear pathway for you girls."
Abdo thanked both players for their involvement in the launch.
"I want to thank you for the roles you guys play as role models in inspiring the next generation," he said.
"Today's an important day. We're here at Willoughby.
"We're acknowledging Norm, we're acknowledging the volunteers, we're acknowledging this club but more importantly we're acknowledging the future, our kids, we're acknowledging the fight back from COVID, we're acknowledging just how important it is to belong to a club and be part of a community. Not just the rugby league community, any community.
"We need to do more. We're joined here by Wayne Pearce who's one of our commissioners and he believes in and is fighting for the NRL and the commission doing more for grassroots football because we're creating the leaders of tomorrow.
"There's a lot of work to do but we're inspired. We are back and working together."