A group of Dragons have been breathing the fire of new life in to junior rugby league this week.
Big-name players and staff from the St George Illawarra Dragons visited local schools on Tuesday and Wednesday to spread a message of anti-bullying, while inspiring young locals to consider taking up the sport.
Dragons community manager Paul Everill took some time out of the schedule to talk with the Bega District News on Tuesday night and said he was excited to be back in the area.
“This is part of the NRL’s community carnival and the Dragons were asked where we might like to go this year,” Everill said.
“We straight away picked the Bega, Pambula and Eden area because we love it here.”
Almost half a team of Dragons were on hand to share some stories with the pupils and also treated an eager group of about 40 youngsters to a special training clinic at the Pambula Sporting Complex on Tuesday night.
Current State of Origin star Brett Morris, big-hitting forward Matt Groat, the nimble Jason Nightingale and rugby league legend Shaun Timmins, just to name a few, all took part and shared their skills.
Everill said the lightning visit to the region was sharing the club’s anti-bullying vision.
“The program is called Tackle Bullying – it’s the second year we’ve run it - the first year we implemented it and created a really good teaching resource.
“This year we’re focusing more on the strategies the victims of bullies can follow.”
Everill said the message was aimed at kids in school.
“It’s in line with the strategies of the department of education, we’ve worked very closely with them and the Dragons in putting this great resource together,” he said.
Everill said the program was the brain child of players after they had notice bullying in visits years ago.
“It was evident a lot of bullying was happening, and we thought ‘we can do something about this’,” he said.
“We were able to put this resource together last year and improved on it this year.”
Everill said the club is keen to see juniors taking part in sports and had taken the stance that kids should be active.
“Obviously we want to foster the local junior leagues in the area, and encourage kids to play all sports, and in particular, our sport.
“We’re visiting 20 schools in two days - it is a hectic schedule, but it’s really important.
“We are combining the Tackle Bullying program with the philosophy of kids should be active and playing sport.”
The club was also keen to expand its fan base in the area during the visit.
“On top of that, we also like to talk about the Dragons membership, it’s an opportunity for us to bring in new young fans.”
And if membership numbers are anything to go by, then it really could be the year of the Dragon for St George Illawarra, and Everill is excited about the prospect.
“It’s quite satisfying at this time of year, we’ve done a lot of work with engaging our fans and we hope it pays off.”
Everill said the club had a history in the FSC and wanted to embrace the area.
“There’s a 15 year history of development with the Dragons on the Far South Coast.
“Our catchment does finish at Batemans Bay, but we’ve had strong links through Moruya with Mick Weyman and links with the Far South Coast in general,” he said.
Everill said the club had been involved in trial games against the Raiders in the area in the past and when the nominations opened to visit again, the Dragons “jumped at the chance to come down”.
Despite the visit being quick, it will no doubt leave a lasting impact on aspiring young footballers up and down the FSC.
“We’d like to stay a lot longer,” Everill said.