Watch out Dubbo, the Yuin Snakes are out to prove their nation is the one to beat in rugby league.
Twenty-five under 16s Shoalhaven players have travelled to Dubbo on Wednesday to compete in the Nations of Origin Seven’s Rugby League Tournament.
Organised by the Shoalhaven PCYC, a girls and boys team made up of eight indigenous and four non-indigenous players will be fighting it out against 64 teams representing 22 nations in a two-day tournament.
The teams were selected from public and independent high schools across the Shoalhaven, with schools nominating students based on their attitude, school attendance and playing ability.
In its first year at Shoalhaven PCYC, the aim of the program is reconciliation between young people and an opportunity for people of non-aboriginal descent to learn about their local indigenous culture and foster relationships between local cultures.
The teams will play three games on Wednesday, before progressing to the finals on Thursday.
Vincentia High School’s Jason Gillard will captain the boys team.
Gillard is no stranger to the sport, having played it for 10 years.
“I have always loved it. I watched it on TV as a kid and it is my dream to be a pro footballer,” he said.
A member of the St George Illawarra Dragons High Performance Squad, this year Gillard played for the Steelers in the Harold Matthews Cup.
He said he was proud to wear the Yuin nation strip.
“It kind of puts an extra thing in your head. You want to make your community proud. Even if we don’t win a game, we will run out on the field proud to represent our community,” he said.
“But I think we have a good chance of making the finals, I’m pretty confident, it just depends on how we play,” he said.
Gillard said his side has all played together before, the key was to bring all their talents together.
“We have the goods to come up with a couple of wins if we play together as a team.”
Gillard said his team’s biggest competition would be the tough Sydney sides.
“But I hope this small town and community can produce the goods to knock them off,” he said.
You want to make your community proud. Even if we don’t win a game, we will run out on the field proud to represent our community.
Shoalhaven PCYC youth case managers, senior constables for the youth command Nathan Wood and Stephen White have spearheaded the program, which, between PCYC and Shoalhaven City Council, is fully funded.
“They have had some great training runs. Although training finished at noon followed by a barbecue, a lot of them stay here at the PCYC until 4.30pm. The camaraderie built these last few weeks have been brilliant for the teams and for the Yuin nation,” Wood said.
White said the program gave the non-indigenous players an understanding of the cultural background of the Yuin nation, and he has seen a greater level of respect from all players towards the police officers and coaches.
“The aim of the program was also for the kids to build a relationship with the PCYC and club and the greater indigenous community and get involved with the club,” he said.
“We are really happy with the camaraderie already developed.”
The teams will wear a specially designed jumper with artwork from local indigenous community member Rodney Seymour.
Aboriginal community liaison officer and Nowra Bomaderry Jets coach Ben Wellington has been on hand to help train the teams, with Shoalhaven LAC constable Megan Rigby the coach of the girl’s team.