Rugby Australia arrives in Yamba on a scouting mission
RUGBY UNION: More than a decade ago, as coach of the NSW Country under-16s team, Jarred Hodges coached a young, wiry boy by the name of Kane Douglas.
The Yamba Buccaneers junior would go on to represent the Wallabies, and yesterday Hodges was at Yamba, on the field named after the boy he used to coach, to scout the next generation of indigenous talent as part of Rugby Australia's Dream Big Time program.
Hodges was the former Australian men's rugby sevens assistant coach but is now the program manager of Dream Big Time and said it was exciting to take the program across regional NSW and Queensland.
"The program is twofold, it's about growing our reach and participation numbers into rugby but there's also some of the health and education benefits,” he said.
"Through rugby we want to increase physical activity and improve people's physical health, which then flows into their mental health.
"Then we also have the element where we are generally searching for talent to form two First Nations teams in both men and women to go and compete domestically and internationally.”
Following the tour, the top 130 players will be flown to Sydney for a four-day camp where their skills will be put to the test in front of a panel of national coaches.
Two squads of 20 will be chosen to represent two First Nations sevens sides to compete in five domestic and two international tournaments.
Hodges said his focus in the Clarence Valley was more local.
"The important part we hope to see in Yamba is bringing the community together and we want to do that through rugby,” he said.
The next generation in Yamba only have to look at the sign outside the Yamba rugby fields, or at Jed Holloway and Cody Walker at the NSW Waratahs, to see where hard work and dedication can take you.
"Many years ago, in 2005, I had the privilege to coach the NSW Country U16s and we had a young Kane Douglas travel all the way from Maclean and we had a camp down in Illawarra and out at Dubbo,” Hodges said.
"To see Kane at that point as a wiry boy grow into the man and father he is is a real testament to him and his family.
"I'll be sending him a photo of me standing at his field.”
Check out next Wednesday's special Deadly Examiner edition for more coverage of the Dream Big Time clinic in Yamba.