Junior football boosted by Dragons visit

It was inspiring watching players from the St George Illawarra Dragons coach local juniors to say the least. 

As a big kid, albeit a very big kid, I must admit I was impressed too. 

The idea of being on the field and seeing State of Origin player Brett Morris or former international player Shaun Timmins leading drills seems foreign even now, despite the fact I was there on Tuesday night and saw it. 

Whether you are a Dragons’ supporter or not, there was no denying the kids were pumped up to meet some big names in one of Australia’s top sports during the training clinic at the Pambula Sporting Complex on Tuesday night. 

However, the big surprise for me was the way these elite athletes handled themselves. 

It was endearing to see some of the country’s favourite sportsmen getting involved and not only inspiring the kids, but truly engaging with them. 

Willie Mataka, especially, was energetic and active in the way he dealt with the participants of the clinic. 

He cheered them on and complimented many on their skills. 

Surely as a kid, there couldn’t be a much better feeling than being told you are a good runner/kicker/tackler by one of the country’s best?

And it wasn’t just Mataka either, Timmins, Morris and Matthew Groat were all smiles and seemed happy to be guiding the juniors around the field. 

Realistically I’m aware that holding the clinic and teaching locals is part of “the job” for these players, but as I watched kids faces light up after getting a photo or an autograph, I couldn’t help but feel that it meant a bit more than that to each of them. 

I guess in this case, it’s going above and beyond the call of duty which separates the men from the boys. 

And finally you have to admire the innocence of kids. 

Jason Nightingale was telling the tale of his start in football to a group of eager listeners when, no sooner than he had finished, a young lad pipes up.

“You’re my second favourite Dragon.”

To which Nightingale could only laugh and ask “Who is your first?”

The answer? 

Josh Dugan, apparently. 

• St George Illawarra Dragon Willie Mataka tests his grip against a young fan at a training clinic on Tuesday.

• St George Illawarra Dragon Willie Mataka tests his grip against a young fan at a training clinic on Tuesday.


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