Parramatta Eels winger Greg Leleisiuao visited Katherine South Primary today to run drills with students.
The visit from the 21-year-old New Zealander is ahead of this weekend’s Round 14 Telstra Premiership clash against the North Queensland Cowboys at TIO Stadium, Darwin.
About 50 year five and six students got to meet the rugby league player and learn some new skills along the way.
Mr Leleisiuao, who will be sitting the game out this weekend due to a torn ligament, said he is eager to get more kids involved in the sport.
“The NRL provides a lot of support as you go up the ranks, so I think (rugby league) is a really good sport for kids to aim to get involved with. It is also a lot of fun,” Mr Leleisiuao said.
“I was a late starter, and I would have loved to have (sport professionals) come to my school, so it is really good to be able to be a role model for these kids myself,” he said.
Katherine South Rugby Academy facilitator Tim East said the exposure to professional players has been a strong driver in attracting more students to the sport.
“We have 83 kids in the academy doing all this training and not really seeing the point, but visits from big players, even if they don’t know them brings it all home, gets them excited and really keeps them going,” he said.
“My big focus is on getting girls to participate, I feel they really get a lot from it, especially when they have a female role model and they can see an end point.
“We’ve gone from having a handful of girls playing in the academy three years ago to about half now, they are learning new skills and proving they can tussle with the boys,” Mr East said.
Rugby Academy captains Ruby Osmotherly and Tyler are both avid rugby players and were thrilled with the visit from the highly rated sportsman today.
“It is good because we get to learn different skills,” Ms Osmotherly said.
“I started playing rugby last year, and now I want to play for a big women’s team sort of like the Eels,” she said.
Tyler is in the running for being in the big league as well, already a player for the Under 14 Radars.
“I’m more into rugby union and dad says I just need to work on my running,” he said.
“These special visits are really good because it doesn’t happen very often, so when it does everyone gets excited.
“I also really like helping with coaching and the skills we learn here and through rugby help with that and make me a better leader,” Tyler said.
“Katherine has just about one of the strongest rugby league participation rates in Australia, and we always enjoy bringing players down to the schools here,” strategic partnerships manager of the Paramatta Eels Michael Basan said today at Katherine South Primary.
“Rugby is all about fun, fitness and friends, and if we can get just one young boy or girl excited about playing after these sessions, then that is just terrific,” he said.
The Territory Government has renewed its partnership with the NRL and Parramatta Eels, signing a two-year agreement to secure premiership games in the NT for the 2018 and 2019 seasons.
Minister for Tourism and Culture, Lauren Moss said the agreement with the NRL will ensure the Eels remain the NT’s home club.
“We know that Territorians want to experience NRL games at home – it helps make the NT a great place to live and keeps people here,” Ms Moss said.