By Jen Gourley
Being from a small town won’t stop you from achieving your dreams. That’s the message delivered by International Legends of League organiser Troy Byers and two former NRL greats Craig Teevan and Reggie Cressbrook to the students of Banana State School.
There’s a series of corporate events in the lead up to the big game day on Saturday when the Mining Skills Australia team takes on the Rebel Sport Callide Valley Allstars in front of thousands of spectators, but the very first stop was at a little school in the small town of Banana. Troy, Craig and Reggie met up with students from Years 4, 5 and 6 to have a chat and share their motivational message of Dream, Believe, Achieve.
It was a friendly session with engaged and interested students who were keen to hear from the NRL legends. On the flipside, the NRL legends were just as keen to hear about the hopes and dreams of the country kids sitting on the floor in front of them. It was delightful to see how genuinely interested Troy, Reggie and Craig were in the kids, asking them all sorts of questions: “How do you travel to school? How long does it take you to get to there? What sports do you like to play? Who are your favourite NRL teams? What do you want to be when you grow up? (NRL players, the Navy, an astronaut and a farmer were among the answers.) And what are your goals?
The students were able to watch a special film with advice from top NRL players like Sam Thaiday, Johnathan Thurston and Alex Johnson, and former rugby league international Allana Ferguson.
They, along with other heroes of the game, shared how they achieved their goals with loads of practical tips and inspiring words:
“If you can picture yourself being there, then you’re going to do whatever it takes to get there.”
(Having a goal) “gives you purpose, and without purpose, you can’t really get anywhere.”
“Through life, you always come across adversity and tough times. And I’ve found that the best way to get through those times is work hard and surround yourself with good people and have that self-belief that you can get through those times.”
The bottom line was that it’s important to have a dream – something that will motivate you to keep going every day.
After the film, Craig and Reggie shared how their dreams and hard work got them into the big league.
Craig played for the Broncos, the Gold Coast, Manly, Cronulla, and the South Queensland Crushers when they were in the competition. He also played State of Origin for Queensland, playing three games and winning all three.
As a youngster, Craig went to a small primary school, about the same size as Banana State School, in the town of Oakey on the Darling Downs.
“What I loved doing, when I was your age, I loved going home and playing with the ball,” Craig said. “And I wanted to be a national rugby league player. That was a goal of mine right from the start.”
He recalled how they would get to see just one game of rugby league each week, on a black and white TV (something unfamiliar to kids these days!).
“I saw these people play on TV and I wanted to do that,” he said. “So, as I went through my primary school years, even though I came from a very, very small school, I still believed that I’d have the ability, if I trained hard, to achieve my goals.”
Craig told the story of how the King, Wally Lewis, inspired him to strive for his goals.
“I wanted to set a reminder of what I wanted to be when I grew up, so I had a poster of Wally inside my cupboard door. Every time I’d open up my cupboard to get my school clothes out and my rugby league clothes out there was a picture of Wally. It kept reminding me every time when I trained hard how I wanted to be like Wally.
“When I left Oakey High School as a 17-year-old, I got assigned to the Brisbane Broncos. And as an 18-year-old I made my first-grade debut in the centres and the five-eighth when I had my very first game in the National Rugby League was Wally Lewis. So, someone who I had a poster of on my cupboard door all the way through my primary school and secondary school and looked up to was my reminder of my goal and I had a chance to play beside him in the very first game that I played in the National League. So that was a big thrill for me.”
Former North Queensland Cowboys player Reggie fondly remembered his childhood in Woorabinda, when Mimosa Creek had ‘nice, clean, fresh water flowing through it’.
For Reggie, his initial dream was not to play league. His first love was cricket and he dreamed of playing for Australia. But there was no wicket where he lived in Woorabinda, so he turned to footy and he set his sights on playing for the NRL.
“There was a time when as I got older, we had a game in Gladstone and there were two coaches looking for players to go and play for the Cowboys,” Reggie told the attentive kids. “The Woorabinda side went down, we had a game and I played alright. The coach invited me to go for a trial at Moranbah and I had a trial there and played well in that game, and I got a contract to go up and play for the Cowboys in their first year in the NRL.”
Reggie remembered how special it felt when he first ran out onto the field in the A-Grade side, hoping his family and friends would be watching him achieve his long-desired dream after years of training hard and believing in himself.
The trio told the children that being from a small country town wouldn’t stop any of them from achieving their dreams in life and that if they believed in themselves, they could do anything.
Uplifting words for the next generation who, no doubt after today’s session, have been inspired to tackle whatever life throws their way and reach for the stars.