HE shelved his Olympic dreams to chase his NRL dreams but for new West Tigers recruit Jesse Parahi it was all about the kids yesterday.
Parahi and wife Carlien are the founders of Sense Rugby, and brought the program up to Tamworth.
The program uses rugby, through occupational therapy methods, as a tool to facilitate the development of children with special needs.
They’ve been running clinics for about six months, and are looking to return later in the year.
“It was run on a trial basis this camp,” Carlien said.
“We’re looking at potentially coming back for a longer intensive camp.”
That will possibly run for three to four days.
Yesterday’s clinic ran for two hours.
“There was some kids that made some really good gains over that time, which was pleasing to see,” Carlien said.
Sport is seen as a great vehicle to engage and assist kids with special needs in their physical, social and emotional development, and seeing the kids enjoying themselves and making gains like they did yesterday is really rewarding, Jesse said.
“That’s the main reason we do it,” he said.
He had one of the parents make the comment to him yesterday that it was the best he’s seen his kid interact.
A paediatric occupational therapist, Carlien said a lot of the program is based on occupational therapy theory.
Simple things like having a very predictable format, and keeping instructions simple.
They use a lot of sensory process theory.
The timing worked out perfectly for Jesse. He had the weekend off.
“Next week we go back to training Saturday,” he said.
The former Australian sevens star has joined the Tigers on a one-year deal and is loving it so far.
“It’s been really good,” he said.
“It’s been really challenging but I expected that.”
The 26-year old is one of several new recruits to the Tigers’ den this season.
They’ve also picked up Tim Grant and Matt Ballin.
“My goal this year is to play in the NRL,” Parahi.
League isn’t foreign to him.
“I grew up playing rugby league as well as union,” he said.
“It’s been eight years since I played but it’s slowly coming back to me.”
His switch to league comes at the expense of playing in the sevens at Rio, but he did get to help the Aussies qualify.
“Qualifying for the Olympics was my goal,” he said.
“Now I can start afresh with something I’ve always wanted to do.”