‘Role model’ might not be the first term that comes to mind when Anthony Mundine is mentioned.
But NRL welfare and education manager Dean Widders believes the polarising boxer is just that and hopes to invite him to future indigenous rugby league player camps in a bid to inspire youngsters.
As coordinator of the inaugural indigenous players’ camp ahead of next weekend’s All Stars showdown, Widders on Friday officially welcomed more than 40 NRL players and selected youngsters for the three-day event on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast.
In what ex-NRL player Widders hopes becomes an annual event, the camp will touch on every aspect of indigenous culture including everything from storytellers and street rappers to spear throwing and didgeridoo playing.
Far from fazed by Mundine’s latest antics, Widders believed the former Dragons playmaker would be a perfect fit for the camp and hoped to invite him in the future.
“Definitely – he is a real mentor to a lot of these players. ‘Choc’ (Mundine) is definitely someone the boys look to for inspiration,” Widders told AAP.
“The way he lives his life and dedicates it to sport is a great way to follow, I think.”
Mundine again raised eyebrows by using the race card ahead of this week’s IBF middleweight bout with compatriot Daniel Geale in Sydney.
He claimed league great Laurie Daley never embraced his Aboriginal heritage and said “Uncle Toms” denied him representative honours during his playing days.
It came after Mundine was forced to apologise to Geale after drawing widespread condemnation for a tirade that included questioning his opponent’s Aboriginal heritage because he had “a white wife and white kids”.
But Widders said behind the scenes, Mundine was a very different person.
“I know Choc personally and I have never seen a nicer guy especially around his own people, community and family,” he said.
“I don’t really like commenting on the stuff he says publicly.”
Widders was excited by the prospect of the new camp which developed from a 2012 chat between indigenous stars Greg Inglis, Johnathan Thurston, Sam Thaiday and Justin Hodges.
“This camp is about learning a bit about their culture and going on whatever journey they want after that,” he said.
“It’s about representing indigenous people and making sure when they go back out there, they can make a bit of a difference.
“If we can become aware and be better leaders and more comfortable in our own skin, it makes you a better role model out in the community.
“And role models are very important. We have a lot of issues in our community that we want to help improve.
“There will also be plenty of laughs but hopefully the boys walk away from this feeling a lot more comfortable about who they are and what they represent.”