The Koori Knockout and Murri Carnival are the showpiece events of the Indigenous Rugby League calendar, but now these carnivals are providing opportunities for the next generation to live out their life ambitions.
The Senior Men’s competition may see the spotlight shine on them, but increasing importance is being placed on the overall junior pathway.
Under 15 players have the opportunity to compete for a place in an interstate match that will be played as part of the NRL All-Stars weekend, and NRL scouts will also be on hand, to see if they can spot a future Rugby League star.
Whilst participation in sporting pursuits may hand these youngsters a Rugby League opportunity, it can also set them up for a bright future away from the field, according to former Mindaribba Warriors winning coach Ronald Griffiths.
“I believe the junior pathway is so important for self determination of Aboriginal People,” Griffiths told Road to the KO.
“We’re able to give them the life skills, the education skills and then give them a career beyond Rugby League, but if they're good enough one in Rugby League.
“There are lots of opportunities for kids. We like to think there are NRL scouts at the games, or at least watching on TV, and if they’re good enough hopefully getting some exposure and getting picked up".
Long time Murri Carnival star Kieron Lander says through the support of local organisations similar opportunities are being created for young players in Queensland also.
The Murri Carnival is placing greater importance on the player pathway program, and ensuring the involvement of the young Rugby League players leaves them with tangible benefits not solely focused on the Rugby League field.
“The U15’s is a real pathway for these young men and we use the support of the universities, the support of the Arthur Beetson Foundation, we’re creating real pathways for them to look at tertiary education and further studies.
“For them to do it with the support of their brothers and families support, it’s a really good initiative.
George Rose, a three time Koori Knockout winner with Walgett knows what it takes to play in the NRL and says there is genuine interest in finding future talent at the Indigenous carnivals.
“Last year at Dubbo I had scouts ringing me up whilst the games were played. They were watching players play and they were very impressed, they wanted to sign them up,” said Rose.
“It is being watched on TV and there are scouts who are interested in them".