Untold feel-good stories: 7 reasons to love NRL
NRL boss Todd Greenberg declared the off-season a "complete train wreck", but here's proof that clubs and their players are working overtime to get it back on track.
During another damaging and tumultuous off-field period in the game, The Daily Telegraph has uncovered seven feel-good stories which show that, as serious as the much-publicised behavioural issues are, there are far more players dedicated to making a positive difference in the community.
EELS players, including Manu Ma'u, Kane Evans and Nathan Brown, spent four days at a community camp in the Northern Territory last week to hold coaching clinics and visit correctional centres, schools and hospitals.
Fullback Will Smith couldn't travel with the team initially because his daughter needed a minor operation in Sydney.
But given his proud indigenous heritage, he was determined to make the journey and flew alone from Sydney to Uluru last Thursday to meet teammates and visit Santa Teresa, a rural Aboriginal community outside Alice Springs.
It was the first time the community kids had met an NRL player.
"Will Smith flew direct to Ayers Rock to meet Nathan Brown and the rest of the Eels community team to specifically visit a school next to Ayers Rock called Yulura as he wanted to fulfil the commitments of attending the school that had never had Eels players there before," Eels official Josh Drayton said.
SEA Eagles stars Api Koroisau and Joel Thompson have been spending time away from football at the Avalon Youth Hub, which assists the mental wellbeing of kids on Sydney's Northern Beaches.
They aren't counsellors but turn up each Wednesday to chat with the kids informally and talk football.
Manly have been working closely with several suicide services.
"Api and Joel throw the ball around, have a bit of fun with the kids and try and take their mind off things that are happening around them," Manly marketing and engagement manager Kellie Pethybridge said. "We want to be there as a support for a lot of the kids."
BULLDOGS skipper Josh Jackson and backrower Adam Elliott found time in their hectic schedules to shock and delight Peter, a big Bulldogs fan who lives with an intellectual disability.
The two NRL players picked up Peter and drove him to the Chalmers Road School graduation, where he is school captain.
"It's amazing for me and Jacko to be a part of the Year 12 formal for Chalmers Road School and to see how happy Pete was all afternoon," Elliott said. "I know how special these moments are."
Jackson added: "We are really lucky to be able to have that impact on people's lives."
PENRITH's indigenous welfare office Glen Liddiard has secured life after footy for six young Panthers players - Brent Naden, Brock Naden, Daine Laurie, Liam Coleman, Alan Fitzgibbon and Luke Geary - finding them jobs working on the NBN.
"We wanted to get them into jobs," Liddiard said. "A lot of the boys come from the country so if things don't work out in rugby league they can now go home and there is a career there because they will be putting in the NBN - or doing maintenance - for the next 30 years.
"The reality is, even if you do play first grade it doesn't last that long, so you eventually have to go and find a job."
RAIDERS coach Ricky Stuart is travelling through rural areas in his down time to help train and educate junior coaches.
Stuart will hold a special course for local coaches in Bega on Friday night before his club's trial game against Canterbury the next day.
In a bid to educate all coaches mentoring young players, Stuart and members of his coaching staff have also spoken and helped aspiring coaches in Griffith and Gundagai.
"This is something Rick is real keen on," Canberra media manager Ben Pollock said. "We're trying to help out the Riverina-south coaches region by offering free coaching clinics for young coaches."
6 SOUTH SYDNEY
BUDDY Gordon, who had a stint in the NRL and is now a lower-grade player with South Sydney, continues his dedicated crusade to help the kids of Redfern.
Souths Cares, the club charity focused on employment, education and training opportunities for disadvantaged and marginalised youth, launched a new program last year for aboriginals aged 10 to 17 who live in the Souths area and are considered a risk of entering the juvenile justice system.
Under Gordon's mentoring, 20 kids this year will receive education and help with reconnecting to their aboriginal culture through an annual leadership and cultural camp.
7 NORTH QUEENSLAND
COWBOYS players continue to help mop up after the devastating floods around Townsville.
John Asiata, Scott Bolton, Gavin Cooper and Antonio Winterstein were lauded for their courageous assistance in helping flood victims, even helping rescue teammates.
Cooper, Ben Hampton, Jake Granville, Ethan Lowe and Nene Macdonald were all affected by the floods, as were football staff members David Fairleigh, David Tangata-Toa, Glenn Hall and Michael Dobbin.
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