The NSWRL is pleased to announce the winners of the 2018 Junior League #Respect Pledge competition – and it's one of Western Sydney's great success stories.
The title was awarded to the club which contributed – relative to the club's size – the most signatures for the pledge, which aims to raise awareness about the #Respect program and the broader NSWRL values. In 2018, the Mount Druitt Lions took out the honour in what has already been a major year of growth.
Formerly known as the Mount Druitt PCYC Spartans, the Lions were established ahead of the 2018 season by youth welfare community group Rap 4 Change, which seeks to help educate young people in the awareness of current social concerns. Lions secretary Haley Clifton explains it's been a big first year for the club – and winning the #Respect pledge competition is icing on the cake.
"It's our first year and we already have 24 teams, including a Try Time team," Clifton explains. "For everybody to come together and do this pledge – and for us to actually win – is amazing.
"As we parted from PCYC, the club had a vision to be about not just football, but about the youth. Helping them to develop their skills not just in football but also in school, helping them find jobs, anything to do with youth."
The club's establishment and growth has been a major benefit for the community, which has been reflected by an unprecedented increase in participation numbers; the Lions now have more than 350 players compared with 100 at PCYC last year. Talks are now underway with the Blacktown City Council as the club looks to improve its facility and further strengthen its ties with the area.
As part of the first prize, one team from the Lions will be taken through a special training session by Brydens Lawyers NSW Blues coach Brad Fittler. A product of Cambridge Park, just west of Mount Druitt, Fittler is held in high regard in Sydney's West and his presence is sure to put a smile on the players' faces.
"The players were ecstatic," Clifton adds. "They ran and told their parents to vote, they got everybody to get on board.
"They obviously look up to him. A lot of kids have told us that they would like to be like him when they get older, so it's massive for us to win and for all the kids to be able to have this experience. There's not many clubs who get this opportunity."
In addition to the training session, the Lions will also receive a voucher to purchase training equipment – which will also be provided to two runners-up. While the competition has now concluded, teams, players and officials are encouraged to take the Junior League #Respect Pledge, which can be accessed here.