February 11, 2010
NATHAN HINDMARSH is now going to get more people than ever stopping him in the street.
He says that in his new job with rugby league's Western Sydney Academy he wants to hear from people what they think needs improving in the game to make it more appealing for kids to play - and it's certain they'll take him up on that offer.
During a break from yesterday's coaching clinic at Parramatta Stadium, the Eels star was asked what he thought was the best way to keep league ahead of the field as the AFL steps up its move into Sydney's west.
''We've got to ask questions,'' he replied. ''We've got to ask parents, kids, volunteers what they want to get out of rugby league and what they think needs improving. That will help the game go forward.
''I'll be involved in that process, yeah. I want to see kids have fun and get excited about going to training after school, and get excited to wake up on Saturday and play.''
Hindmarsh doesn't see AFL attracting young players in Sydney's west as a reason for league officials to contemplate slashing their wrists, as long as the game is doing all it can to keep itself attractive.
''I think it's going to have an impact,'' Hindmarsh said of the AFL's western Sydney push. ''Kids are going to want to play the game, definitely. We do live in Australia, where kids love to play sport, and I don't see why some kids won't want to play AFL.
''Sure, it will strengthen their claims out west, but I think we've got a great product in rugby league that's been around for the last 100 years and will remain that way.
''Look at our base in western Sydney, it's massive, with over 25,000 kids playing rugby league and 20,000 volunteers. And then there are teams like Parra, Canterbury, Penrith and Wests Tigers, who people want to watch.
''Kids and parents are going to make up their own minds about which game to play. We just want to make rugby league as much fun and as enjoyable as it was when I played as a kid. Everyone says it's a war [against AFL], but I don't think it's a war. AFL is putting a team out there, and kids are going to play whatever game they want to play.''