In a game that’s often accused of giving second (and third, fourth, fifth…) chances to the wrong people, it warms my cold, cynical heart to see Jarrod Mullen back playing rugby league.
Back in 2017 I was looking at changing careers. My job delivering beer around Sydney had its perks but after 16 years the lower back and shoulders were starting to get some regular aches and pains.
I wanted to do something I was passionate about.
I asked the NRL if there was any work and they sent me to a webpage that had jobs, but they required some experience in the junior league or a degree in sport science.
I didn’t go to uni, so I thought I could get some experience in junior league – and just so happens I had a friend who coached his son’s under 10s team in the Penrith district and the club’s training field is only a five-minute drive from my house, so I asked if I could help out.
The following year, 2018, I turned up to training and helped pick up the cones. When the first trial came around, I’d barely worked out a couple of the kids names and we lost 48-0. I thought, ‘this is an awesome challenge’ and told the coach, “don’t worry, we’ll make the grand final”.
There were improvements every week, the players were starting to come together, and won a few games. I was starting to get in the groove, just telling the kids how awesome they are – when the team the other teams would score, I told them they are still doing well and just this and that need fixing up a bit.
I tried to keep it simple – like let’s just complete our next set of six and get the kick away, or score a try – my motto was run hard, tackle hard.
We finished the season in second place and only lost three games, so we made the semi-final and won both matches to make the grand final against a team that had beat us twice – the same team that beat us in the first trial.
This is where I could tell you we won and everyone lived happily ever after, but we lost two tries to three. Still, the boys played so well that it was a touch-and-go affair.
The following year I changed jobs and the coach changed the days and times for training, so I had to miss a few games. The boys made the semis but were knocked out by the same team that beat them in the decider the year before.
The reason I’m telling this story that is I see people on this site moaning about how junior league is declining, so my solution is if you are in a stable situation and looking for something to fill a little void in life, volunteer for your local club. They will welcome you with open arms, as most clubs need more volunteers, and the kids’ enthusiasm is contagious.
Contributing has its rewards and watching any of these kids playing in the NRL in a few years would be awesome – I suspect some of the kids I trained will!
Training will start in the first week or two of February, so if you’re interested, get in contact with your local club and teach the next generation to run hard and tackle hard.