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17 February, 2021

League stars visit Gilgandra

The NRL Road to Regions tour kicked off this month in Gilgandra. The tour aims to support and empower rugby league communities.

By Telden Nelson

Former Sydney Rooster Mitch Aubusson, St George Illawarra Dragons star Kezie Apps and former Paramatta Eel David Gower all visited Gilgandra this week as part of the NRL’s Road to Region initiative. Pictured here are the trio with some local NRL and NRLW fans and aspiring stars at the Gilgandra Services Club.

A rare treat arrived in Gilgandra this month with two former NRL stars and a past NRLW Dally M winner rolling into town for the Road to Regions program. Recently retired Sydney Roosters mainstay Mitch Aubusson was down along with former Parramatta Eels forward David Gower and 2016 NRLW Dally M Medal Player of the Year and St George Illawarra Dragons star Kezie Apps.

Within the program there is a particular focus on rugby league communities that have done it tough, such as regions that played no rugby league through 2020 or have been affected by natural disaster such as drought. Over 25 towns are being visited across regional and remote NSW, Queensland, Victoria and South Australia.

Mr Aubusson is the second most capped player in the history of the club at 301 games, tied with Luke Ricketson and only one behind Anthony Minichiello.

Mitch Aubusson showing a young aspiring Gilgandra footballer how to make good contact when kicking the ball.

“We’re just getting around to as many schools and junior clubs to spread the word about footy and pass on a few messages about resilience and support networks and getting through adversity,” said Mr Aubusson.

When asked how the local children have responded to his visit and talks he said “they’ve been awesome”.

“We’ve been down to a few schools already and they’ve all loved it. There’s a fair few here and we’ll put them through their paces, throw a few skills and drills out and watch them enjoy it.”

Mr Aubusson said that country football is incredibly important to the NRL given the constant stream of young rural talent making it to big stage.

“It’s huge, really big, I’m a country guy myself I come from the north coast. I used to love it when first graders and the league development guys come out and we got to play a bit of footy."

"It’s really big for the NRL because a good chunk of players come from rural areas. Hopefully one some of these guys will be playing in the big time and I’m sure they will. It’s a rich area, the western division, for first graders. I know Penrith has done a really good job out here.”

The three-time premiership winner said that one of the most important things for young players is to enjoy themselves and that’d be one of his biggest pieces of advice.

“To enjoy it, having mates. I started playing when I was six and I’ve still got mates today from that. I wouldn’t have those mates without footy, they’re my best mates and my support network.

“We’ve been mates for a long time and we will be into the future. I want them to enjoy it and see how far they can push it. Not everybody is going to play first grade and that’s alright. It’s about getting out there, keeping fit and keeping your head clear.”

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