Over the last month, the entire Canberra Raiders NRL squad ventured out to participate in a training session of every single club in the Canberra Junior Rugby League, which includes teams in Bungendore, Cooma, Goulburn and Yass.
The initiative is something that has been a mainstay of the Raiders’ yearly community schedule and one that the players – no matter what age – thoroughly enjoy.
Boys and girls of all ages got to learn first hand how to step like Blake Austin, pass like Josh Hodgson, kick like Sam Williams, tackle like Josh Papalii and wrestle like big Shannon Boyd.
“I know that I can speak on behalf of all of the players when I say that we enjoy the visits just as much as the kids,” said Croker, who played his junior rugby league for the Goulburn Stockmen.
“Rugby league is a part of the fabric of the Canberra community and it’s a very rewarding feeling being able to put a smile on the faces of kids, especially ones that share a mutual love of the game with you.
“Days like these are very special in particular for guys like myself, Paul Vaughan, Mitch Cornish, Sam Williams, Mark Nicholls and Jack Ahearn, because we all played our junior footy in the area and are passionate to see our old clubs continue to thrive.”
Unfortunately, the weather was absolutely atrocious for each week of the junior club visits, but the down pouring of rain and the subsequent cold could not put a dampener on the children’s smiles nor the enthusiasm of the Raiders NRL squad.
"We were lucky enough to have Jack Wighton and Rhys Kennedy attend training for the South Tuggeranong Knights juniors at Conder Oval and they were absolutely fantastic," said Leanne Chaffer, a committee member of the club.
"The weather was truly awful but both guys impressed everyone who was there from the children, to the parents and coaching staff. We can't thank the Raiders enough for organising the junior club visits!"
Canberra Region Rugby League Junior Administrator Debbie Ford says that initiatives such as this by the Raiders proves just how community focused the club is.
“The visits to junior clubs by the Raiders NRL squad provides grass roots rugby league with a tremendous boost,” Ford said.
“The children absolutely love it and getting up close and personal with their heroes at their own training sessions gives them memories that they will remember for the rest of their lives.
“Whilst the main emphasis is on the kids having fun, it also gives the kids something to aspire to when they are older if they continue to work hard, given that a lot of the players are visiting junior clubs whom they in fact played for.”