Canberra Raiders are looking to strengthen ties with the Riverina and help foster the next generation of NRL stars from the region.
Coach Ricky Stuart, along with assistant coach Brett White and former players Adrian Purtell and Nigel Plum, were in Wagga as part of the Riverina Bulls preparations for the Andrew Johns and Laurie Daley cups over the weekend.
Stuart believes it’s crucial for the brightest talents continue to see what pathways lie ahead.
“It is really important that they see that there is a real option here (in Canberra),” Stuart said.
“We feel we’re a big part of the Riverina area, have had so many players come through our grades here out of the Riverina area but also for the kids to understand there is a real, genuine opportunity for them.”
Both the under 16s and under 18s squad spent two days at Beres Ellwood Oval soaking up the experiences of the former Raiders.
Stuart was pleased by how receptive Riverina’s rugby league community was during the camp.
“It was really good,” he said.
“I was met by a lot of enthusiastic young players and the coaches were great.
“They were all really enthusiastic about trying to help these young boys and there was a really good environment generated through the coaches.
“The players accommodated that with all the skills and drills they were doing.”
The visit comes months away from Wagga’s first NRL game in over 20 years.
Canberra hosts Penrith at Equex Centre on May 4.
Stuart sees the game as taking the new step toward supporting country football and believes the club has a responsibility to keep promoting the game.
“We have to make sure boys in country areas understand they are as important as everyone else in the city and for me they are in our backyard,” Stuart said.
“I want them to think they are very welcome and see us as their backyard.”
Feeling there is a very authentic support for rugby league in the bush, Stuart is planning to have the Raiders arrive three or four days before the clash.
He believes it’s important to be part of the community.
“Whatever we need to do to make people feel as though they are apart of it we will as that is the idea of going out into the country for a little bit of time before the game is about,” he said.
“I think it is imperative we keep being available to play in country areas
“We played St George at Mudgee last year and it was a great success so we need to take more priority in actually getting out to the country.
“I know it is difficult taking games away from your stadiums because there are so many different types of barriers you have to jump but for the good of the game we need to keep showing responsibilities towards getting games out in the country, having academies and training clinics performed.”