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Teens ride camels 2900km to play Rugby League

How did twin brothers Tyler and Tashiem Abbott kickstart their Rugby League careers in the NSW mid-north coast town of Taree?

They rode camels from Alice Springs to Taree – a distance of 2,900km – with handler Barry Watts to get there.

Watts was making a trek across the desert for awareness and cultural reasons as he is deeply involved with Indigenous communities in the Northern Territory.

“When they got to Taree they started high school and have been part of the Clontarf Academy ever since,” Clontarf Foundation NSW Operations Manager Joel Parsons said.

The Clontarf Academy began in Western Australia for Indigenous high school-age boys wanting to play Aussie Rules. It has been in NSW with a Rugby League focus since 2012.

“We use sport to attract boys to come to school. It’s a good drawcard for them.”

Tyler Abbott
Tyler Abbott

Tyler and Tashiem, aged 15, said they much prefer playing Rugby League because it’s faster, more skilful and physical.

But they had to connect with family in Taree first to make that a reality.

Their obvious skills for the 13-a-side game were noticed and the Abbott brothers were selected among 40 Under 16s Indigenous players statewide for the KARI Foundation Talented Aboriginal Athletes Program (TAAP) held across three days at the NSWRL’s Ignite HQ Centre of Excellence.

When they arrived at NSWRL their reputation preceded them.

Tashiem Abbott
Tashiem Abbott

“There’s a bit of an aura around the boys,” Parsons said.

“It’s a bit out of the box, but they’re great kids and they’ll rip in at the camp.


KARI Foundation Talented Aboriginal Athletes Program

Both boys play for the Under 16s Taree Red Rovers Junior Rugby League Club.

The trip of a lifetime took six months.

“We had 100 litres of water, clothes, food,” Tyler told

“We ate damper, porridge and shot kangaroos for some meat. At some stops we bought egg and bacon rolls.

“We started with 10 camels but when we got to Taree we only had four. Some ran away and some passed away and we sold two along the way.”

Tashiem said there were no major mishaps during the journey and they never encountered unwanted wild life like snakes or dingoes.

“We had a good map and we never felt lost or scared,” Tashiem said, adding he and Tyler felt a sense of accomplishment when it was all over.

“When we started we were only 12. It took us six months – it was just a challenge we wanted to do.

“We do feel a sense of pride but there was a purpose – we wanted to get to our family in Taree and to play Rugby League.”

Tyler is a lock and Tashiem plays centre-fullback.

They were coached at the TAAP camp by Indigenous greats Dean Widders, Nathan Blacklock, NRL Indigenous All Stars coach Ron Griffiths, along with NSW Origin head coach Brad Fittler.

“We wanted to improve our skills, and to hear what these coaches had to say,” Tyler said.

The brothers are hoping their Rugby League pathway takes them all the way to the elite level.

“We’d like to go to the NRL – Souths Sydney maybe, although we might start with the Wests Tigers,” Tashiem said with a cheeky smile.

“They got the wooden spoon (in 2022) so they might need some help.”

Acknowledgement of Country

New South Wales Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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