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Former NRL stars give back by heading home

Former NRL players Joel Thompson and Blake Ferguson returned home to where it all began last weekend, inspiring the next generation of NSW Country Rugby League stars.

Ivanhoe product Joel Thompson, 34, made the long trip back home to help the Roosters to Proten Cup Knockout glory.

Playing on Sahara Oval in Ivanhoe, Thompson was a member of the Kodie Charles-led Roosters outfit, which won their first-ever Knockout following a 10-0 win over Rankin Springs in the earlier rounds before a 14-6 victory over Barellan in the final.

Thompson was met with great fanfare in the fifth instalment of the Proten Cup pre-season competition. Ivanhoe Rugby League Club President Mark Huntly was thrilled to see such immense support for the annual event.

“He loved it, and everyone was so happy to see Joel back playing footy for Ivanhoe,” Huntly said.

“He always wanted to come back and have a game for Ivanhoe, and it was good for the community too, and all these young fellas coming through, they grew up watching him play in the NRL, and now they can say they have had a game of footy with him, and it gives them a boost of confidence.

“It was just good to have him there; he does a fantastic job with the young ones, and it made for a great day.”

A 235-game veteran of the NRL, Thompson debuted for the Raiders in 2008, playing 89 games with the Green Machine before stints with St George Illawarra (86 games) and Manly (60 games).

After spending a year in England, Thompson called time on his storied Rugby League career at the end of the 2021 season.

Still, returning to Ivanhoe and donning the Roosters colours is one of his more treasured moments in the sport of Rugby League.

“I grew up playing footy there, and I was 16 or 17 when I pulled on a Roosters jersey for the last time, but to get back there and pull on an Ivanhoe jersey at Ivanhoe is pretty special,” Thompson said.

“You should have seen the crowd; everyone was pumping and enjoying themselves, and after the games, I’ve never seen the club so busy.

“It was such a good feeling to be back and involved, and out of all the footy I’ve played, it is definitely one of the most special weekends I’ve had.”

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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