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NRL camp for Pacific islanders

Thursday 19 January 2012 | Published in Regional


Two Cook Islands rugby league players will take part in a leadership camp including NRL All Stars captain Benji Marshall, Petero Civoniceva, Manu Vatuvei, Michael Jennings and Roy Asotasi.

The NRL is describing the Pacific players leadership camp as ground-breaking, saying it is the first of its kind to be held in Australian elite sport.

Cook Islands aligned players Dominique Peyroux and Alex Glenn have been named among the players of Pacific descent and origin who will join the camp.

With almost 30 per cent of players in the NRL of Pacific heritage, the 2012 NRL Pacific Studies Cultural Leadership Camp, starting this Friday, January 20, is being held to further develop specifically targeted senior and up-and-coming NRL players of Pacific heritage as leaders in their respective clubs and communities.

Fifty players and staff from all 16 NRL clubs will participate in the inaugural three-day camp, being held in partnership with the Canberra-based Australian National University (ANU) and conducted at the Sydney University Village.

NRL chief executive officer David Gallop said that players will be encouraged to talk to club officials about ways they can contribute to building and strengthening existing club culture and systems.

We hope that this camp brings together those who are already in leadership roles and inspires others to do the same, Gallop said.

It is a great initiative of our Education and Welfare team to run a programme like this for the first time in Australian sport; and the players and clubs have embraced it.

The NRL Pacific Council, and in particular ex-NRL player Nigel Vagana in his current role as NRL Education and Welfare Officer, have been working with ANU over the past three years to package content and create a series of cultural leadership tools for NRL players of Pacific heritage.

Sessions will focus on Pacific culture and identity, society and leadership, literature and visual arts, food and health, and spirituality and will be delivered by the ANU Pacific Studies programme.

Broncos veteran Petero Civoniceva will also deliver a talk on the importance of cultural education and leadership to the group, including Lote Tuqiri and Adam Blair (Wests Tigers), Tony Williams (Sea Eagles); Issac Luke (Rabbitohs); Wes Naiqama (Knights); and Frank Pritchard (Bulldogs).

Many of our younger guys in rugby league have fantastic potential to make a difference in their community and undertake leadership roles both on and off the field, Civoniceva said.

This camp is a chance for us to look at the challenges and opportunities that exist in the game for Pacific Islander players and to take some time to reconnect with our culture.

ANU offers the only Pacific studies major in Australia, and also runs Pasifika Australia, a community and youth outreach programme which aims to foster aspirations for higher education amongst Pacific Islander and Maori communities.

The Australian National University is excited to be working with the NRL on the Pacific studies leadership camp, said Professor Kent Anderson, director of school of culture, history and language at the ANU College of Asia and the Pacific.

This combines two of Australias world leading institutions in an innovative way. We at ANU are deeply committed to understanding and engaging with the Pacific and the Pacific islander community in Australia.

We value the knowledge and experience the Pacific islanders bring to our understanding of the world, and sport and physical culture is part of that.