The weather was bleak and most of the floodlights on the training grounds were turned off, but that didn’t stop hundreds of young players, across the 14 local Cronulla-Sutherland District Junior League clubs, from meeting their NRL heroes earlier this week.
As a part of the annual Junior League Blitz, Sharks NRL squad members, including skipper Paul Gallen, Origin star Wade Graham, Kiwi newcomer Shaun Johnson and young guns Bronson Xerri, Briton Nikora and Blayke Brailey, got out and about in spreading some good will and encouraging junior participation.
All 14 clubs, from Aquinas in the west, Bosco Bulldogs and Engadine Dragons in the south and Kurnell to the east, along with all clubs in between, hosted the Sharks for photographs, autographs signings and meet and greet sessions.
Had the rains stayed away and the grounds remained open, the players would have stepped in for some training drills and skills, but despite the wet weather reports came through from all venues of an enjoyable night had by all.
The blitz also gave some of the boys a chance to go back to where their rugby league journeys had begun, with Xerri, Kyle Flanagan and Jayden Brailey returning to Blaxland Oval, the home of the Colts, Scott Sorensen and Billy Magoulias dropped into their old junior club at Cronulla Caringbah, as did former Yarrawarrah Tigers Chad Townsend and Daniel Vasquez.
And while the local boys got the chance to return ‘home’, junior clubs and their young players had the opportunity to meet the likes of Johnson, Josh Dugan, Aaron Woods, Andrew Fifita and Josh Morris as a part of the JRL Blitz.
It was an exercise in the Sharks continuing their efforts to engage with community and to support the extremely healthy local junior league.
Somewhat bucking trends in other districts and areas along the rugby league heartland of the east coast, the Cronulla Sutherland Junior League can boast continued growth in 2019, with participation numbers approaching 5,000 registered players, ranking it third amongst all Junior associations around the country.
The Sharks will also provide ongoing support of the local competitions throughout the 2019 season, with mini league games featuring at PointsBet Stadium at NRL games this year, while the Junior Academy continues to create pathways for elite local players.