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The Pirtek Parramatta Eels, along with Narrandera High School, have donated some much appreciated sports equipment and Parramatta Eels caps to some young football players in Fiji.

Beth Chappell of Narrandera High School spent 12 months collecting over 500 books, 21 laptops and 30 footballs, as well as other sports equipment, stationary, cameras and PA equipment for their trip to Fiji.

For some of the year 12 students, the school excursion was their first trip overseas.

It is about opening up the eyes of the students to the world that exists outside of our community, says Beth.

The students visited a rural village on the Coral Coast, an hour from Nadi airport, the Bemana District School in the mountains of Sigatoka, which had never had a visit from the outside world, and the Koroinasau Public School.

The Narrandera students connected with the Fijian students and spent their days running coaching clinics, playing Oz Tag, cricket and teaching the recorder.

Beth says taking the Parramatta Eels football equipment was the best part as students in Fiji are football crazy.

When I saw the footballs I knew how much it would mean to these kids, said Beth.

Beth first connected with the Parramatta Eels club when one of her students trialled for the junior team. Since then, she has become a supporter of the Eels, as she has been given ongoing support for her trips to Fiji.

Last year the club sent 12 pairs of football boots. This year, Eels caps and footballs were donated.

You should have seen their faces when I gave them a hat and a footy. They were overwhelmed. It was absolutely gold, said Beth.

The school only ever had 3 footy teams and 2 footballs so during training one team just had to run around the oval while the other two played.

Photo credit: Trent Light Photography

Sala Vulakoro of the Bemana District School said the children who experienced the greatest impact from the visit were the ones who had never before had rugby boots on their tiny feet.

"There were those incredible moments, like a mum having a go at one of the 20 laptops," Sala wrote to her good friend Beth after the visit.

"Who would ever imagine touching a laptop let alone playing her first computer game so late in life? The teachers were delighted with the flutes and a guitar to help with music lessons, a binding machine and teaching aid, P.A system and digital camera and the committee were thrilled with the circular saw and electric screw driver."

"Even the village rugby team were given a set of jumpers and shorts. These were all beyond their imaginations."

Since their visit, over half of the children selected at a recent interschool rugby league competition were from the schools that Narrandera visited. Due to the equipment and an old coaching manual that was donated, the level of coaching had improved significantly.

Before they left, Beth was also able to pass on one of the hats to a students grandfather, who was suffering from terminal cancer. An old friend and one-eyed Eels supporter, Mick OConnor wore the hat to the very end.

Mick was always dedicated to Parramatta, always loyal. Always followed them as long as I can remember, said Beth.

Although we were worried he would pass while we were away, we were delighted to find that he was able to hear about our trip when we returned.

Unfortunately he passed away on Thursday, wearing his beloved new hat, said Beth. Tomorrow I will go to his funeral and he will be buried in that hat. Its great to know I gave him that. It made him feel really special.

Mick O'Connor with his daughter, Torie Pratt, and granddaughter, Harper

Micks family sent on a message to Beth after his passing, including a photo of the former brickie from Narrandera wearing his new acquisition:

Dad was a passionate Eels supporter: his favourite players were Luke Burt and Nathan Hindmarsh, but he truly did love them all. This photo was taken 9 days before he passed and he wore his jacket and hat for the whole time. He was in care for the last 3 months, and it was only fitting that dad wanted to be buried supporting his beloved team.

2013 was the second trip to Fiji for Narrandera High - and the school is already planning their next annual visit in 2013. For more information, you can follow the Narrandera High School blogs online
, and to donate or assist with the initiative, please email Beth Chappell on
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Parramatta Eels respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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