Eels leave their mark in NT
Parramatta have extended their footprint into the Northern Territory, leaving a lasting impression on the remote indigenous town of Santa Teresa on Tuesday.
Bevan French, Josh Hoffman, Will Smith and Nathan Davis made the 85-kilometre trek from the red centre to Santa Teresa across the dry and barren gravel road, providing the local school children with the experience of a lifetime.
The Eels, largely unheard of by the 555 locals before their visit to the Catholic Mission town, brought smiles to the faces of children, many of whom had never touched a rugby league ball before Parramatta arrived in town.
They were put through their paces in a series of rugby league drills with some lucky students, some playing barefoot on the red dirt, receiving football boots from the players and many gifts on behalf of the club.
The highlight for the students was a 40-metre race against French, who didn't test out the hamstring that plagued his 2017 campaign, preferring to let all the students run past him.
"It's always good to come out to these small rural areas in the middle of nowhere," French told NRL.com.
"It sort of makes you realise how much we take for granted when you come to places like this. There's not much around here to do but the kids always have a big smile on their face and they're very welcoming and always happy.
"It's good to come out here and see all the smiles on the face and try and teach the kids a new sport. Their most preferred sport is AFL so it's good to come out here and teach them a few things as well."
Hoffman, who is also a proud Indigenous rugby league player, said he was humbled by the experience.
"It's just an eye opener how lucky we have it back home in NSW," Hoffman said.
"There's not much out here but they have their school and they have each other. It's been a big eye opener but I'm just grateful to experience this."
Deputy principal of the Ltyentye Apurte Catholic School, Justin Colley, credited the Eels players and said the experience was likely to have a lasting impression on the students.
"It means a lot and I don't know if you saw on the oval, the way the students were engaging with the players – they were star struck," Colley said.
"The engagement, the focus, the attention and the interest the players received from the students was fabulous to see. It means a lot because they see positive role models, in this case positive male role models – that was very good for our young fellas."