Junior rugby league players in the Narrabri Shire were gifted a rare opportunity last week when the NRL Roads to Regions tour visited Wee Waa and Narrabri.
Two NRL players left their busy pre-season schedules behind to travel to the shire where they were involved in junior league clinics, school visits, handing out awards at school swimming carnivals and meet and greets.
The duo were South Sydney Rabbitohs’ Kyle Turner and Newcastle Knights’ Mitch Barnett.
Turner, a grand final winner with the Rabbitohs in 2014, was thrown into the Wee Waa community on Thursday.
It was an opportunity that he valued.
Turner played his junior footy in Coonabarabran, and said that it was extremely important for country kids to gain NRL exposure through player visits.
“We’ve gone around to a couple of the schools to see the kids, to talk to them about well-being and living a healthy lifestyle,” Turner said on Thursday afternoon in Wee Waa.
“Then playing touch footy with the kids at the clinic, they really kept me on my feet.
“Seeing how much the kids have enjoyed the day is the main part, it’s about having fun, and it makes it worthwhile coming out here.
“Any time the NRL gives me the chance to come out [to regional areas] I jump on the opportunity.
“People don’t understand how much [NRL player visits] means to country kids.
“I love coming out here to do this.”
Turner said that his journey from junior footy in Coonabarabran to playing NRL “wasn’t easy”, but through a lot of hard work and sacrifice he made his dream become a reality.
That well and truly paid off in October 2014, when he won the grand final with South Sydney.
“That was the best moment of my life to date,” he said.
“I hope to recreate it in 2018.”
Turner was joined by Barnett the following day in Narrabri.
The pair were met by about 100 local juniors at the Hogan Oval clinic.
The youngsters took the opportunity to not only meet the pair and have autographs signed, but also dust off the off-season cobwebs and brave the heat at Hogan Oval across several touch footy games.
Barnett said that he was a firm believer in the Roads to Regions tour, to encourage country kids to follow their dreams.