The Dyldam Parramatta Eels have touched down in Darwin this week as the club prepares to play its Round 22 NRL Premiership match at TIO Stadium on Saturday night.
Staff, club legends Luke Burt and Nathan Cayless, and second-rower Manu Ma'u have kicked off the week in "Eels Territory" with visits to schools and junior league clubs in both Darwin and Katherine, and Eels Game Development Manager Michael Basan says the club's second home has welcomed the Eels.
"We've hit a couple of schools already and the feedback has been great," Basan said.
"The teachers have been really happy with what we’ve produced and the kids look like they’re having a great time. The Territory and the schools have really embraced it so it’s been a positive start."
One school that second-rower Manu Ma'u visited on Tuesday - the Casuarina Senior College "Colts" - will take on Katherine High School in the inaugural Eels Cup final on Wednesday night, and Basan says the new initiative for under 16 rugby league teams has caught on strongly in the Territory.
"We’ve had 7 schools taken part in the inaugural event this year, and I think the two best schools have actually made the final," Basan said.
"We’re really happy with that, so we’ll be working with the development officers and the Northern Territory Rugby League and the Government to ramp up the competition next year and hopefully that 7 turns into 10 and 15 in the future."
In his first visit to Darwin, forward Manu Ma'u said he'd been impressed so far by the efforts of the kids and teenagers, some of whom were getting their first taste of rugby league.
"The kids are going alright!" Ma'u said.
"They’re having fun and that’s the main thing. Hopefully after this week we’ll have a few more fans up here in the Northern Territory."
And while the locals are getting excited for Saturday night's NRL clash between the Eels and the Canberra Raiders, Ma'u is getting closer to a return to the football field after suffering a fractured forearm midway through the season.
"I’m keen as to get out there," Ma'u said.
"I’ll just get my recovery right and do my rehab (rehabilitation) and hopefully a few more weeks and I’ll come back."
The Casuarina Senior College Colts play Katherine High School on Wednesday night for the inaugural Eels Cup, and the Dyldam Parramatta Eels play the Canberra Raiders at 8pm local time (8.30pm AEST) on Saturday, August 9.