Rugby League lifting Aboriginal kids in the bush

Goodooga, 19 February 2007 - - As a new Aboriginal Rugby League competition in the bush gears up with trial matches, the lives of youngsters are already improving.

"In Bourke the rugby league officials are being told that children aged between 13 years and 19 years are not hanging around the street like they were, instead they are at the field four nights a week training for football," reports Michael Anderson, CEO of the Aboriginal Nations League.

"The police have indicated that the crime rate for the same period as last year is down by one third," says Anderson in a media release.

"Similarly, the youth are wanting to play in other parts of the region where this competition will be played."

Anderson, who's also the elected spokesman for the Gumilaroi Nation, says this good news was expected and is "the biggest talk in our communities" about the new league. "We are just at the beginning and I know that our people have a lot to look forward to."

The league had its second round of trial games at Lightning Ridge over the weekend. Bourke, Goodooga, the Moree Mission Jets and a Myall group played.

"The Myalls were playing for positions in teams and wanted to show their talents," Anderson reports.

His match summaries: "Goodooga were too good for the Moree Mission Jets running in five tries to two. The Myalls, who included some players from Moree Mission Jets and Goodooga along with the hopefuls, beat Bourke three tries to two."

"If this is the type of rugby league that we are going to see every weekend, then the Aboriginal Nations Super League have a very good season to look forward to," he quotes observers as saying.

"We are witnessing trial games that show a level of fitness and personal commitment that surprises even the locals. It is not uncommon to hear people at the games saying things like 'I did not think they were training that long to be that fit already'."

Comments like these come after some fast and hard rugby league was seen being played, Anderson says.

"This is our time and we will maintain ownership of this, but we also keep an open mind to any proposals that will see joint ventures as we develop this competition," Anderson's statement says.

"The public must realise that what this competition is going to offer is a new way of doing business. Aboriginal people's demands are those that permit human growth and development without the 'NO GO' zones that exist and constrain people from expressing themselves.

"What people must accept is the need to 'UNDERSTAND' and 'RESPECT'. We are organising security in a manner that will permit good times without confrontation and after our first two outings all is well.

"WE are working with the police in an effort to assure them, ourselves and the public that they are welcome to come and be part of this new development."

Anderson, who played the game professionally to fund his law studies, says the talent and standard of rugby league being exhibited at this early stage are extremely high and the public's support and their compliance with alcohol bans have been good.

"Our elders and children can watch good football without intoxicated persons being a nuisance."

Anderson said he and his state executive will have further meetings this Wednesday with Terry Quinn of the NSW Country Rugby League seeking a satisfactory solution to the current stand off.

"Terry and his country Rugby League people must take note of the recent media coverage which is pointing out that Rugby League is dying. This competition is working to promote and develop it, not go at cross-purposes.

"In the end we all want the same thing, kids playing rugby league. One thing that was said recently in the media is spot on. There is now an absolute need to have a summit on Rugby League and its development.

"We will be a part of this if we can get a summit of this nature promoted. In fact we are calling upon all our Aboriginal clubs to attend a mini summit for Armidale on March 2.

"The NSW Aboriginal Rugby League and Sports Inc will host this meeting. We are calling all those persons involved in Rugby League in the bush to attend.

"This summit includes non-Aborigines as well as we all want rugby league to be played and if the Country Rugby League don't want to promote and develop it then we will."

Rugby League is beneficial to everyone in the bush, Anderson writes, "and we will do it even if we have to bypass the people who are supposed to be running it".

"We will not let the bush die because of some short-sighted officials. If it is money that is needed then I think we all must dig deep for the sake of our children. If we do not do it now then it may be too late in a year or two's time."

Contact Michael Anderson at [email protected] Landline 02 68 29 63 55 Mobile 04 27 29 24 92 Fax 02 68 29 63 75