Taking part in the NSW Aboriginal Rugby League Knockout is the ultimate way to foster the growth of the game, South Sydney Rabbitohs Greg Inglis and Cody Walker have said.
Inglis and Walker both bowed out in the opening round of the 2018 Koori Knockout at Apex Oval on Saturday, with Walker’s Walgett Aboriginal Connection falling to Kempsey Dunghutti Bloodlines 12-4 before Inglis’ Wall Street Warriors lost 22-6 at the hands of Combined Countries.
But they were just two of a multitude of NRL stars taking the field this weekend, with Rabbitohs teammate Braidon Burns (a Coonamble Bears junior) lining up for Castlereagh All Blacks, NSW Origin centre James Roberts and outgoing Cronulla Shark Jesse Ramien (another Coonamble product) playing for Kempsey and the Panthers’ Tyrone Peachey returning home to play with Nanima Common Connections. Gold Coast Titan Ash Taylor and Dally M prop of the year Andrew Fifita also took the field.
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Walker said it was “awesome” the NRL and clubs had approved their players to take part.
“It’s just awesome if NRL players can pass on little tips here and there, whether it be the way we prepare for games or what we eat the night before a game,” he said, after featuring for WAC in honour of his manager Matt Rose’s 20th year in the number 6 Knockout jumper.
“If we can help a young kid – really inspire them to follow their dreams – because a lot of them want to be NRL players and if we can give them tops here and there then we’re doing our job.”
For Inglis, this year marked his first Knockout since playing with the Newcastle Yowies at just 15 years of age, and the first since he has become a household name.
It has also marked a return to the place it all began – playing rugby league in the front yards of Wall Street, Macksville.
It’s also about giving back. The Warriors club, formed by Inglis and his cousin Stephen Blair 12 months ago, featured about seven players under the age of 18.
“We always talk about grassroots footy, and you never forget where you came from,” he said.
“The boys that come back here, they love it. I love coming back here and playing.
“I’m just extremely proud. Obviously it didn’t go our way but like I said, we’re a young side and we’ve got the future to look forward to.”