The St George Illawarra Dragons made a quick trip to Bega on Monday to meet fans and sign some autographs as part of the NRL’s Community Carnival.
Euan Aitken, Drew Hutchison, Kalifa Faifai Loa, Josh Kerr, Kurt Mann and ladies Dally M winner Kezie Apps were all on hand at the Sapphire Marketplace in Bega from 4.15pm.
Players signed promotional posters, jerseys and footballs for some enthusiastic fans, but also took the time to have a chat and discuss their season preparations and hopes for the coming season.
There was exciting news for Pambula’s own export to the club in Euan Aitken, who today announced a new three-year deal with the Dragons, staying on until at least 2020.
I got the chance to chat with former Pambula-Merimbula Bulldog Aitken, who has not long ago represented Scotland in the Four Nations.
“Yeah it was a really different experience to go right way across the world to play a couple of games of footy,” Aitken says with a laugh. “But It was really proud moment to represent my heritage and my grandpa, whose sadly passed away now.”
He said he was honoured to play alongside the Scottish team and pay tribute to his father’s side of the family in that way.
“It was definitely a great experience and really glad I did it.
“The challenge of stepping up to that international level was always there and I thought we put a good hitout against Australia
“It was a bit surreal playing against Australia because obviously I was born here, but it was definitely a real buzz too because you're playing the best in the world and I wanted to test myself.”
When pressed if there was anyone on the Australian line-up he’d like to run at, or shy away from, Aitken remained unwaveringly professional.
He said it was part of the job and he would run at whoever he needed in order to get his team the metre advantage.
After signing the new contract with the club, Aitken said the prospects for the coming season were good as the club locked down more deals.
“We're building pretty well at the Dragons now and looking to the futrure - it's a good opportunity for us this year to prove some people wrong,” he said.
“We've got a lot of talented young guys coming through – wether from other clubs or through the ranks – and I reckon we’ll see a lot of them breaking through soon.”
After returning from the Nines, Aitken said he was straight back into some rigorous training sessions, thumping out a pre-season regimen in just a handful of weeks, and was looking forward to staying at home with his parents in Pambula on Monday night.
“Yeah I’m staying with Mum and Dad, so it will be a little bit of family time and catch up with them,” he said as another gushing supporter asked for an autograph.