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Bush Footy: A Vital Pathway

Words: Andréa Mandadakis

Some of the best Rugby League players in history have come from the country. It’s no surprise then that the best Club in Rugby League has had a strong history with bush footy that continues to today - think player like Churchill, Sattler, O’Neill and our current squad of Inglis, Crichton, Cook, Turner and Walker.

In order to continue that country production line, we have to give back to the community to strengthen it even further. The relationship between the Rabbitohs and country Rugby League has been very important for our Club’s health both on and off-field.

Beyond that, and equally as important, there are noble reasons to support bush footy. The positive impact on regional communities, the joy we can bring the aspiring juniors who often feel isolated and the growth of the game are all outcomes that align with the Rabbitohs way of doing things.

The Rabbitohs own Cody Walker can speak from experience of the importance of growing a relationship between the Rabbitohs and the country.

As a kid in Casino it was rare for Cody to have first-hand encounters with NRL players and it created a hurdle for him to make it to the NRL.

“We didn’t have many NRL players come up to country areas like Casino, I still remember nearly every single one that came and visited us,” said Walker.

“It was very hard, the closest NRL club to me was the Gold Coast Titans and I signed my first NRL deal there as a 16-year old, it was about a 3 hour drive.

“I had to move away at a very young age and I found that very hard as a young kid, moving away from my mum and dad. I’m the youngest of four so I found that very difficult.

“That’s why I try and get up there once or twice a year to show my face, say hello and get to know people around the area and let them know that it’s not that hard to make the NRL. It is hard but if you put your mind to it you can do anything.”

With the end of the City vs Country spectacle that was enjoyed for over 100 years, it’s now more than ever that Country Rugby League needs the support from not only the NRL and its Clubs, but from Rugby League supporters around Australia.

“With no Country vs City match in 2018, we’re supportive of the NRL’s move to provide more games to people in regional New South Wales. All NRL clubs have an obligation to ensure that Rugby League outside of Sydney is strong,” said Rabbitohs CEO Blake Solly.

The Rabbitohs are a community oriented Club that values engagement with our loyal Members, and hosting matches in the country is just another way of growing that bond and growing the Rabbitohs family.

Besides Sydney, the biggest catchment areas of Rabbitohs Members reside in Rural NSW and on the Central Coast respectively, so it is especially important that we give back to not only Country Rugby League, but also to the passionate Rabbitohs Members outside of Sydney who want to attend games but are unable to travel.

We might be from South Sydney, but our doors are open to anyone who wants to wear the Red and Green, no matter where they call home.

“I can’t wait, I played City vs Country out there (in Mudgee), and at the open training session there were a couple hundred of kids running around and they just love their Rugby League out there,” beamed Walker.

“I can't wait to get out there in February.”

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