After a winter without rugby league, school kids from Gundagai hit the footy fields of their hometown with great enthusiasm, as a modified version of the South West Mortimer Shield was run by NRL Development Officers at Anzac Park and Owen Vincent Oval during the week.
The smiles were there for all to see as children participated in non-competitive rugby league and league tag games against schools from Tumut, Adelong and Tumbarumba, with the emphasis being on getting out and having fun after such a long period of restricted inter-school activity.
NRL Regional Manager, Adam Perry, was very pleased with the number of participants, and the enthusiasm shown by both students and teachers on the day. The NRL premiership winning player and coach of the champion 2020 Gundagai Tigers first-grade side also thanked students from Gundagai High School who volunteered to referee on the day.
“It was a great day all-round, with the kids really enjoying the opportunity to get out and play rugby league,” said Perry.
“After COVID rules had restricted much of our normal programming, we decided to make the day non-competitive with a few other minor rule changes to ensure the kids just got out there and had some fun.”
“The teachers from all the schools are really enthusiastic about participating in clinics and these sorts of days, and now it is just a matter of trying to get as much in as possible for the kids in term four.”
Jesse Wheaton from Gundagai Public School echoed Perry’s comments, saying that the kids were just so excited about getting the ball in their hands and representing their school against other sides from the local region.
In the rugby league (tackle) division the draw was made up of: Tumut’s Franklin Public School and McAuley Central School, with Adelong Public School, Gundagai Public and Tumbarumba Public also fielding sides. St Patricks Gundagai and St Josephs Adelong combined to make up a team.
Each side played five matches that were 15-minutes in duration over the course of the day, with some great rugby league played by all the sides.
Edward Smart was one player who was making the most of his opportunity to play on the historical Anzac Park. He scored eight tries in total, with one in particular standing out. After the youngster appeared hemmed in on his own try line, Smart left several defenders grasping for thin air, as he ran the length of the field to score.
Edward said that he loves playing footy, and was just glad to be able to play for his school and with his mates again.
The league tag section of the programme proved very popular, with two pools needed to cater for the amount of sides entered.
Pool 1 saw sides from: St Patricks/St Josephs, Gundagai Public School 1, McAuley Central 1, Tumut Public School 1, Adelong Public School, Tumbarumba and Franklin Public Schools, while Pool 2 was filled with second sides from most of the same schools, and a Small Schools side, which included players from Gundagai South Public.
Gundagai South Public Principal, Pip McAlister, was just one of many educators pleased to see her students able to travel outside of school grounds to compete in sporting activities. Gundagai South student, Monique Hayes, showed that she is a league tag player with plenty of potential, scoring a try against St Patricks/St Josephs, while making plenty of other contributions.
Apart from Adam Perry, the day was well represented by NRL Development Officers, with Gundagai’s own, James Smart, in attendance, while Tumut premiership winning forward, Zac Masters, was also there in his role as a teacher, giving the kids no shortage of stars to look up to.