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Goanna Academy uses love of footy to promote mental health

Greg Inglis with some of the Bourke kids who turned up to Rugby League Skills Clinic at Bourke’s Davidson Oval last week – at back: Klae McDonald, Sadler Cross, Lukayah Corby, Evie Wood, Jazarli Kelly, Rylan Shillingsworth, Meleah Towney, Camilla Barton and Neshiah Towney. At front: Jack Attenborough, Logan McDonald, Clem Edwards, Joey Bottom, Cooper Clarke and Wilder Cross. Photo TWH

There was plenty of laughter and the fun of kicking a footy around the oval, as well as some serious life lessons to be learned when the Goanna Academy visited Bourke and Walgett last week.

The Academy is the life work of former NRL great Greg Inglis, who is bringing the message of positive attitude and good mental health to youngsters across NSW, via Rugby League.

It is the second visit to both towns for Greg and his Goanna Academy team, which works through a partnership with the PCYC to deliver mental health awareness programs while developing skills on and off the football field.

About 130 children took part in the Bourke program on Wednesday and more than 100 turned up to participate in Walgett, capping off what has been a hugely successful program since Greg launched it several years ago, following his own struggles with mental health.

The Goanna Academy is the first accredited and Indigenous-owned mental health education provider in Australia.

Greg said his mission was to develop programs through the Goanna Academy that would open conversations around mental health, particularly for young First Nations people in remote and regional communities.

During his trip west, Greg brought along a powerful and positive support team, including NRLW player Jakiya Whitfeld, who plays on the wing for Wests Tigers.

“It was fantastic to be part of this experience,” Jakiya said. “What Greg is doing is empowering for these young kids and the purpose of this trip - Module 3 - was all about self-esteem.

“So, I was responsible for running most of the activities out on the field during the day - the drills, some short games and then a match at the end of the day, which the kids loved.

“They were aged between about 5 to 14 and they had an absolute ball.

“I think it was particularly inspiring for the girls to see someone like me, making a success in the sport.

Read more in the printed edition of The Western Herald.

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