Around 30 of the NRL’s best Indigenous players have gathered in Sydney for this weekend’s carnival of rugby league, which includes a visit to Taronga Zoo on Friday night and three matches at Redfern Oval on Saturday.
Greg Inglis, Joel Thompson, Alex Johnston, Cody Walker, Bevan French, Josh Hoffman and Connor Watson were among the 30 or so players who gathered at Sydney’s Hyatt Regency Hotel on Friday afternoon for a series of presentations from the likes of Lynda Burney MP and Adam Goodes.
Goodes, the retired Sydney Swans star who enjoyed a record-breaking career in the AFL, spoke to the players on the importance of managing their money and setting themselves up for life after football while Burney discussed the meaning and importance of Welcome to Country and Acknowledgement of Country.
Wade Graham and Thompson each addressed the group on their own experiences of learning to start to manage their finances including some lessons players may not often hear, even down to making sure their superannuation is in order given how important it will be to their post-career wellbeing.
The players were then scheduled to head to Taronga Zoo to surprise kids attending the NRL’s Indigenous Youth Summit and participate in cultural workshops together once they get there and share stories about which mob they are from.
“What they’ve put on, the NRL, we’ve very strong in the community and again this weekend is really good for Indigenous rugby league,” Thompson told NRL.com.
“I’m looking forward to getting to Redfern and seeing the sides play. I’ve got a cousin in the Goannas side, I’m looking forward to seeing him and catching up with him. We love it and it’s good to be here.”
Johnston added that playing for a Redfern-based club in South Sydney he regularly got a close-up look at how important the sport is to the indigenous community.
“There’s plenty of Indigenous boys playing the game and the NRL do a good job of recognising and celebrating us each year,” Johnston said.
While Graham was disappointed that his schedule didn’t allow him to participate in the full weekend of activities he was still pleased for the chance to take part in the first part of camp, address the group and catch up with some fellow indigenous players.
“Without the [All Stars] game this year it’s a good opportunity for everyone to get together and continue catching up and creating relationships and keep building together,” Graham told NRL.com.
“Georgie Rose and all the boys work hard to get these weekends happening. It’s a great opportunity for everyone to come in, catch up, say hello to everyone, get across everything and just be together.”