DEX SHIELD: Community taps into Bats' flying spirit
RUGBY league nursery Maclean High School is ready to kickstart a new era as they involve the business community in a new project.
Maclean High Bats will be getting a facelift with a brand new set of jerseys for their Open and Under-14 sides made possible by a slew of local businesses who have jumped on board with sponsorship.
It is a ground-breaking moment for the high school with business sponsorship for public school jerseys previously unheard of. It was an idea thought of by coach Hughie Stanley who has taken over the reins of the school's league side following the departure of teacher Nathan White last year.
In an effort to breathe new life into the rugby league program at Maclean High and to show the students their community is behind them, Stanley went to the streets to drum up support from business houses and the response floored the premiership winning footballer.
"I had a goal amount that I knew would cover the two sets of jerseys and everyone has been so quick and happy to jump on board that we have doubled that figure," he said. "We are now trying to distribute the dollars to other sports in the school.
"This was just an effort to bring these kids more connected with their community. Sometimes they are left thinking they are doing it all on their own, but this proves the community does care about them."
Stanley, a man who enjoys pushing the envelope in all of life's facets especially on the football field, has come up with an indigenous inspired design for the Open grade jersey, which will also help the students tap into their cultural roots in the Clarence Valley.
For Maclean Spar owner Bob Little, one of the sponsors who has come on board, it was a chance to give support to the growth and development of students in his region.
"I look at the school in a lot of ways and think it is great to be able to get behind them and support them," Little said.
"I thought this was a good opportunity to help the school in its sporting endeavours, and that is one particular area where it does need the support.
"I have been right behind rugby league for most of my life, even though I never played it myself, I think it is a great sport for local kids. I expect some of these Maclean kids to come into the Cronulla Sharks program in the future, where I can even support them a bit more."
Little said he hoped the sponsorship program would bring the students of Maclean High closer to the wider Maclean and Lower Clarence communities.
"I think it is good for kids to see the community behind them, that it is not just a game, it is not just about them going out and having fun. The community believes in them and they want to support them. I hope it puts some enthusiasm into the kids to know they are playing for the community as well."
Sharon Holloway, owner of Harwood Farm Store, said she did not need a second thought before responding to Stanley's calls for support. With students at Maclean High it was a chance to provide for the development of them and their friends.
Doug and Sandra Jenkins at Maclean Outdoors had the same feeling, hoping their sponsorship would help push the kids to get into the outdoors more and continue on their sporting endeavours.
While the jersey's have not come in time for tonight's The Daily Examiner Shield opening round, Stanley is hoping his side can be wearing them with pride come finals night on June 7.
Maclean will be hoping to defend their 2016 DEX Shield crowns in both Opens and Under 14s when they take the field for the first time against South Grafton High School today at 5.15pm at McKittrick Park.
School principal Robert Perl said he was confident the side could continue their red-hot form into this season, with the support of assistant coach Steve Woods still on board for the coaching staff.
Perl also thanked Walters Butchery Maclean, Harwood Farm Store, Hamilton Simmons, SPAR Maclean, Maclean Outdoors, Mills Boys and Eye Care Plus for their support in the jerseys.
"It is unusual and it doesn't happen in a lot of schools," Perl said. "I take my hat off to Hughie Stanley for going around to the local business houses and drumming up that support for our team.
"I think he is tapping in to the community spirit, and that is what it is all about. It is great to have the community involvement in the school."