The rugby league season came early for the Blue Heeler pups on Saturday when players from the Canberra Raiders helped conduct an NRL Community Carnival at Bombala Oval.
Raiders stars Elliot Whitehead, Lachlan Croker and Lou Goodwin led a string of activities for about 50 juniors at the ‘come and try’ event before posing for photos and signing autographs.
NRL Game Development Officer Damian Kennedy said it was a great turnout.
"It was a positive, fun atmosphere," he said.
"The players helped set up activities and really got involved."
Mr Kennedy also praised the Bombala junior and senior rugby league clubs for ensuring the event was a success.
“Around one-third of the kids were new to the game, so it was a great job by the footy club to support it,” he said.
Junior club secretary Julie-Anne Robinson said the kids were initially a bit excited to meet the players before settling into the activities.
"The kids loved it," she said.
"We haven't had the NRL host a camp down here for a while, so it gets the kids coming out of the woodwork and having a go at rugby."
It gets the kids coming out of the woodwork and having a go at rugby.Bombala Blue Heelers junior club secretary Julie-Anne Robinson
Ms Robinson said having the Raiders conduct the session helped alleviate the negative image rugby can have among parents.
"It helps shine a positive light on the sport," she said.
Such is the popularity of rugby that the juniors will be fielding an under 9-12s girls side to complement the under 13-16s team in 2017.
The positive vibes surrounding the sport were also on show with a thank you dinner at the Bombala RSL Club on Friday night, which was attended by representatives of both the junior and senior clubs.
High energy clinic at Bombala
Meanwhile, the summer rugby league action continues on Sunday with the final Red Energy High Performance camp at Bombala Oval from 10am to 1pm.
Officials said young representative hopefuls would cap off the final clinic of the season.
Group 16 chairman Allan Wilton said the camps were targeting players between 13 and 17 years old.
“They’re designed to increase the opportunities for young players to continue their development and prepare them to go onto representative league,” Mr Wilton said. “And hopefully it can open a pathway to the NRL for them in the future.
“We’re becoming recognised as a pocket of talent with a number of Group 16 players in the NRL including Dale Finucane, Euan Aitken, Adam Elliott and most recently Morgan Boyle, who played for the Titans in the weekend’s Nines.”
Club coaches are also invited to attend the camp as it will provide them the opportunity to work with highly qualified representative coaches on techniques they can share with their squads.
Players are asked to register on the Group 16 Facebook page for catering purposes and be in Bombala at 9.30 for a 10am start on Sunday.