NSW Junior Rugby League Clubs will feel the afterglow of the 2021 NRL Grand Final after helping groom Penrith Panthers players for successful Rugby League careers.
The NRL and major sponsor Telstra announced that a $5,000 grant would be given to the junior club of every player of the premiership-winning side.
From the 17 Panthers who enjoyed a 14-12 victory over the South Sydney Rabbitohs, 16 have come from 12 clubs in NSW with Kurt Capewell the exception, playing his junior football in the north Queensland town of Charleville, west of Townsville.
Some clubs like St Marys Saints (three players), St Johns Dubbo (two) and the Minchinbury Jets (two) have several players. Brian To’o, Jarome Luai and Moses Leota all hail from St Marys and the club has never forgotten the legacy they left.
“We’re very proud of the players that came through our ranks,” Saints chairman Warren Smith said.
“We’re a very big club – and a proud club – so their success is celebrated by all of us.
“With our girls sides included we’ll have nearly 1,000 playing with our club next year. The funds will certainly go straight into the development of our juniors, not so much our seniors, but particularly the Under 10s and around those age groups.
“We hold two or three clinics each year for the juniors as we want to develop those kids, bring them through, and hopefully they stay with St Marys.
“I’d like to thank Telstra and the NRL for acknowledging the junior leagues clubs and the work they do. All these great NRL players come from somewhere, so it’s fantastic to put some money back into those clubs.”
St Johns Dubbo president Bernard Wilson said he had a list already drawn up of where the funds would be funnelled off the back of club juniors Matt Burton and Isaah Yeo.
“It will be mainly spent on upgrading all our equipment from tackle bags through to footballs and other gear,” he said.
“Before anyone gets a nice T-shirt, we want to make sure we’ve got the right people and quality equipment to develop the kids coming through.
“It’s a really great initiative because we’re a good-size club now – with over 400 players for next year so we’re going flat out at the moment and always looking for new equipment.”
Wilson said the club and the district were extremely proud of Burton and Yeo. He also has a personal connection as Yeo is a second cousin, while he coached Burton in the early part of his career.
“They are good people, they come from great families,” he said.
“They deserve all that they’ve achieved because they’ve worked hard.”
The Rabbitohs don’t miss out as Telstra is also giving $20,000 to the club to use for their junior development and pathways.
The full list of the Penrith players and their junior clubs are:
1. Dylan Edwards (Bellingen Dorrigo Magpies)
2. Stephen Crichton (St Clair Comets)
3. Paul Momirovski (Alexandria Rovers)
4. Matt Burton (St Johns Dubbo)
5. Brian To’o (St Ma4rys Saints)
6. Jarome Luai (St Marys Saints)
7. Nathan Cleary (Brothers Penrith)
8. Moses Leota (St Marys Saints)
9. Api Koroisau (Berala Bears)
10. James Fisher-Harris (Windsor Wolves)
11. Viliame Kikau (Western Vikings)
12. Kurt Capewell (Charleville Junior RLC)
13. Isaah Yeo (St Johns Dubbo)
14. Tyrone May (Minchinbury Jets)
15. Scott Sorensen (Cronulla-Caringbah Sharks)
16. Spencer Leniu (Minchinbury Jets)
17. Liam Martin (Temora Dragons)