PARTICIPATION: Australian Rugby League coach Steve Belsham puts Gympie Special School students Jessie Harris and Nick Russell through their paces yesterday. Players are practising ahead of a carnival in Nambour later this month.
PARTICIPATION: Australian Rugby League coach Steve Belsham puts Gympie Special School students Jessie Harris and Nick Russell through their paces yesterday. Players are practising ahead of a carnival in Nambour later this month. Craig Warhurst

Top coach passes on league tips

THE Melbourne Storm salary cap saga is doing a lot to damage rugby league’s image but students at the Gympie Special School are proving to be ideal ambassadors for the game.

A group of nearly 25 secondary school-aged students have been taking part in special rugby league training sessions with Australian Rugby League development officer Steve Belsham.

The Gympie Special School pupils lined up eagerly for their second training session yesterday.

Belsham hosted the clinics with the assistance of student trainees from Gympie State High School.

While participation is inclusive for secondary students, a group of 10 will attend a league carnival hosted by Nambour on May 21. Students not playing in the carnival will have the opportunity to continue their involvement with more skills sessions on the day.

Schools from around the district will be taking part, some from as far away as Bundaberg, and Belsham said the carnival was an opportunity for the players to transfer their skills from the training paddock to a match.

Amazingly, none of the Gympie students had played league prior to commencing training.

“Everyone has been working really hard,” Belsham said. “The kids are looking forward to it.”

Gympie Special school students are keen for a solid showing in Nambour and this has been reflected in their dedication to training.

Basic skills have been the emphasis in early training sessions, including passing, playing the ball and learning how to score.

Above all, having fun has been made a top priority – much to the delight of Gympie Special School principal Barry Tarlinton.

“Everyone is having a ball and rising to the occasion,” Tarlinton said.

The carnival itself will make use of a modified version of the game

called league tag. The subtle changes in the game allow maximum participation.

Meanwhile, Belsham is hoping to establish a league tag competition, the ARL League Shield, involving schools from as far north as Bundaberg down to Brisbane.

“It’s something we have in mind and would be good to get up and running,” he said.

Another exciting possibility for the Gympie league stars is the possibility of playing during a half-time

interval at Suncorp Stadium during a Brisbane Broncos home game.

“We’re going to approach the NRL to see if it’s possible and hopefully they will be receptive to the idea,” Belsham said.

Normally, a 10-minute break between halves is used for visiting schools and club players to stage a mini game in front of the Broncos’ home crowd.

However, Belsham said a half-hour block would be required when working with children with disabilities.

Regardless of the result at the league carnival later this month, the Gympie Special School students will be winners and victory a bonus.

Gympie Times


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