Former Wallaby Gary Ella is set to make his way to Armidale to mentor some of Australia’s top up-and-coming Aboriginal rugby union stars.
As part of a three-day camp hosted at The Armidale School, Ella will spend Saturday inspiring and guiding around 80 under 17 players.
From the participants, 12 boys and 12 girls will be selected to represent the National Indigenous Under 17 team at the 2018 National Youths Championship in December.
Ella, along with his brothers Mark and Glen, pulled on the green and gold for the Wallabies in the 1980s.
He said he is hoping to inspire the current group of players coming through the junior ranks to take up opportunities wherever they present themselves with the camp about more than just on-field opportunities.
“I generally talk about how my opportunities came about – don't be scared, have a go because you mightn't think so but there is always a lot of support available for young people,” Ella said.
“The biggest focus we have in one sense is that we talk about the opportunities that rugby can offer, the mateship and those type of things.
“We also hold a couple of important lifestyle sessions as well, things about mental health, things about career opportunities, whether it is employment or further education, making healthy choices.
“There is also all of those other opportunities that we can deliver and talk to the participants about.”
Ella said some of the participants may take up different pathways outside of the sport.
“We always say opportunities are going to present themselves, not just necessarily on the sporting field, it could be on the academic field as well, and you really should think about them hard and if you get the opportunity, give it careful consideration,” he said.
“I think sometimes it is really daunting about what opportunities are available and how do you make that decision.
“It is just that type of advice we give people.
“We are not up there for the heavy sell, we are up there to support young people and their families to make some decisions about their futures.”
In terms of on-the-field, Ella will be part of the selection committee for the national championships teams.
In past years, players from the Indigenous team have gone on to further representative honours after the tournament.
“Last year in the national teams that went on and played against New Zealand, we had five young Aboriginal girls in the squad and three boys in the national squad from the teams that we picked to compete in the nationals,” Ella said.
“So we don't just go to make up the numbers at the nationals, we actually have some players that do really well in those tournaments.”
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