Tim Grant was proud to be part of the NRL Road to Regions tour, but being able to strengthen the Penrith Panthers’ connection to the western area made it even better.
Grant, along with St George Illawarra centre Euan Aitken and Jillaroos Talesha Quinn, Ruan Sims and Simaima Taufa, was in the western region this week to run a number of clinics and health and well-being seminars.
Grant was on hand at South Dubbo Primary School on Friday morning and while speaking about the dangers of cyber bullying and cyber security he stated it was great to see so many Panthers fans out and about.
“It’s good to get out to any country town and spread the message about cyber bullying and those things and also participation in sport,” the Panthers prop said.
“That’s the underlying factor here, if we can get more kids playing sport it’s a positive outcome. And it’s good for me personally to come out to the central west as we claim this region as Panthers territory.
“We’ve got a lot of guys at the Panthers like Isaah Yeo and Kaide Ellis who come from out here and it’s home for us. We play a game in Bathurst and it’s our territory so it’s good to come out and see the people.”
A whole host of junior talents from the Western Rams region, including the likes of Dubbo CYMS star Matt Burton, have made the move to Penrith in recent seasons.
Grant, who has played Origin four times for NSW, said the sheer number of country kids in the Penrith system should give all aspiring footy players plenty of belief.
“I think it’s good for the local kids to see there is definitely a pathway to the NRL if that’s what they want to do,” he said.
“We’ve got a lot of kids from the central west who come and play Harold Matthews and SG Ball and we’ve got the graduates as well, as I mentioned before. The kids can see that and that’s a positive for the community.”
Community well-being was one of the major things spoken about in the tour, with the Jillaroos players taking part in a State of Mind seminar at Wellington on Wednesday night.
That is a major part of the tour, with positive education and well-being messages just as important as exposure for the NRL.
“Footy in the country can be an outlet for the kids and if they didn’t have footy what else would they be doing? So with that it goes with state of mind and that’s definitely important,” Grant said.
Getting that message through to the next generation, through things like the various school visits, is one of the major positives of the tour.
Having a high profile athlete passing on the message also helps.
“It’s rewarding but the kids out here don’t get to see it every day,” Grant said.
“There’s kids who live across the road from us when we train and see us every day and the kids in the country are really receptive and grateful we’re here.”
Grant made his debut at Penrith and after stints with South Sydney and the Wests Tigers he is now back at the foot of the mountains.