Manly Warringah Sea Eagles back-rower Joel Thompson is hoping to use his experiences to help fellow indigenous rugby league players by taking up a role on the Rugby League Players’ Association board.
Thompson addressed a group of indigenous players at this weekend’s Festival of Indigenous Rugby League along with fellow senior player Wade Graham, sharing their contrasting stories about learning to deal with financial pressures early in their careers.
Thompson aims to join the 11-person RLPA board in a full-time capacity at its next AGM in March via a full member vote. He has already been appointed on a casual vacancy basis, as approved by the current board, and has wasted no time in trying to help make a difference.
“I’ve been in conversation with those guys about coming onto the board and bringing a different aspect,” Thompson told NRL.com.
“Coming from a small country town (Ivanhoe in far western NSW), being indigenous, bringing that onto the board and adding that bit of diversity I guess, a bit of a mix to the group [is the goal].
“I’m looking forward to that, doing what I can and also learning. It’s something I’ve never done before, I’m looking forward to learning from people and getting as much out of it as I can, helping out where I can and making it stronger.”
Thompson has become an increasingly influential voice in rugby league as he looks to bring a positive influence after emerging from a childhood surrounded by violence and substance abuse.
“I haven’t been perfect, I’ve had some mistakes along the way and I still probably do but as I’ve grown I’ve matured,” Thompson said.
“I find these roles and positions, I feel confident now I can do this sort of stuff.
“I’m learning along the way and that’s important for me, to put myself out of my comfort zone and challenging myself and learning what I can from different people and I’m looking forward to what’s in the future.”
Thompson was relishing the chance not just to use his position with the RLPA but as a senior voice in the indigenous rugby league community to help up and coming players who may be in a similar position to what he was when he was younger, faced with the possibility of heading down the wrong path.
“It’s really important, this [indigenous] camp and always has been,” he continued.
“It’s a good time to bring all the players together and all get on the same page and get some good messages across.”