The Brydens Lawyers NSW Blues were the toast of Armidale after staging a successful State of Origin camp for over 200 children at the University of New England (UNE) on Saturday.
The camp was the idea of NSW coach Brad Fittler, who took part in a similar camp as a young child after winning a prize at his junior club Mounties.
Fittler was joined at the coaching clinic by an extended NSW Blues squad, including 14 of the players who won the State of Origin shield last year.
“It was great to see the players but into the benefits of the camp,” Fittler told NSWRL.com.au
“They really enjoy each other’s company and that was also evident last year.
“I think a real key for us is if they enjoy it then everything works and that forms the backbone of these sorts of things that we do.”
There were also a couple of special guests who dropped in on the camp, including True Blues Ross Conlon and Mark O'Meley, as well as legendary Dragons winger Nathan Blacklock.
Fittler was also joined by Rugby League identities Peter Corcoran and Paul Broughton, who were responsible for setting up the initial Armidale camp which ran from 1983-2000.
“A lot of energy in footy goes into the clubs and very few people get a chance to look at the bigger picture so I think that’s most probably my job,” Fittler said.
“Those blokes (Corcoran and Broughton) showed the way on how to do that.
“Peter Corcoran introduced the Mini and Mod Footy, and ‘Broughto’ has just been there in coaching and administration since I can remember.
“When I first came into rep teams as a 14-year-old, they were there. They’re still there and they still have a passion for the game that is broader than most people’s is now.”
Following the completion of the camp and an autograph session with fans, the NSW Blues went to the Monckton Aquatic Centre for a breathing training exercise.
After they had finished in the pool, the players again spent time meeting fans, signing and posing for selfies.