Players from The Knock-On Effect NSW Cup were not only star attractions at the annual Fowler Street School ‘Open Day’ in western Sydney this week - they were also active staff members.
Parramatta Eels forwards Jayden Yates and Elie El-Zakhem joined lower grade players from the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs, South Sydney Rabbitohs and Wests Tigers in helping students from the special needs school enjoy educational as well as recreational activities.
Yates and El-Zakhem are employed as teacher aides, to add to their skills set when they leave football.
“I’ve worked here since 2019; Parramatta actually got me the job here,” Yates said.
“I’ve stayed each year because I love it. The kids obviously have some behavioural issues that we try to help them out with as much as we can.”
El-Zakhem has been working at the Fowler Street School since 2020.
“I come on my days off,” he said.
“I really enjoy it here – it’s such a good school with great kids and staff from different cultures and backgrounds.
“Yes, there are challenges, but the kids have taught me patience and resilience. It’s wonderful to see what a great environment can do for these kids.”
The 50 students from Kindergarten through to Year 12 are eager to talk and play football with their teachers’ aides.
“They’re not all Parramatta supporters but when you get the footy in their hands, they’re just happy to play regardless of what team we play for,” El-Zakhem said.
The annual ‘Open Day’ allows parents and carers to come to the school, join in some games, see the classrooms and school art gallery and stay for a BBQ lunch.
NSWRL community representatives were there to give every child a football to encourage them to keep playing with their families and friends.