More junior footballers will have the chance to achieve their goals with the announcement of the new Western Region Institute of Sport at Charles Sturt University’s Dubbo campus.
The Penrith Panthers will offer a rugby league program and scholarships through the WRIS, with general manager Phil ‘Gus’ Gould on hand to welcome the multi-million dollar government investment on Tuesday.
He said the experience of Dubbo products like Isaah Yeo and Kaide Ellis could be a thing of the past.
“We’ve had parents drive five or six hours for their kids to play in junior rep teams, play a game and turn around and come back home,” Gould said.
“Or they eventually have to leave and come and live in our House Parenting program and it’s always a difficult decision.
“To be able to offer these programs here in their hometown is extremely important for their development.”
Dubbo product and former Australia Test second-rower Andrew ‘Bobcat’ Ryan said such a facility would definitely have helped him in his journey to the NRL.
Ryan is also an NRL welfare and education officer, and said the facility could improve the welfare of country kids who would now be able to remain in their home towns, surrounded by their support networks, for longer.
“I had a fantastic childhood, playing a few sports and footy growing up and to have facility like this to give the kids dreams to chase and also have the facilities to stay here until they’re a lot older … it’s phenomenal,” Ryan said.
“To have facilities and to have the university here as well, it’s a fantastic pathway for all of the kids.
“I think it’s massive for the town and the whole western region.”
The WRIS is also a coup for athletes of any sport, with Gymnastics NSW among the sporting organisations pledging a development officer for the facility.
Gould heralded the talent – “not just rugby league” – produced in the west.
“Facilities like this are not only a source of inspiration but aspiration for young people to be a part of,” Gould said.
“Not all of them will be NRL footballers, but the discipline and the teaching and the camaraderie that they get out of these programs will last them a lifetime.”