YESTERDAY’S rain didn’t dampen the spirits of any of the hundreds of youngsters who turned out at Waratah sportsground to secure the signature of one of their sporting heroes.
Rugby league legends Nathan Hindmarsh and Matt Cooper joined Brad Fittler, fresh off his cameo for the Sydney Roosters in the Auckland Nines, at yesterday’s Orange junior rugby league sign on day as a part of the Hogs for Homeless charity ride.
The ride, which begun with a sleepout at ANZ Stadium after the World Club Challenge last Saturday night, raises money for Father Riley’s Youth Off The Streets - a charity based around helping youths who are homeless, drug dependant or recovering from abuse.
As his role on Channel Nine’s The Footy Show suggests, Fittler wasn’t short of a joke.
“Forget anything else, we’ve brought the rain,” Fittler laughed, as heavy droplets threatened to smudge the newly signed autographs.
“I keep hearing the country needs the rain, and now nearly everywhere we’ve gone it’s rained.”
The tour has already visited several rural communities before roaring into Orange, including Forbes, Albury, Jindabyne and Moruya and Fittler commended all the towns for their support, before imploring everyone to get behind the cause.
“I’ve worked with Father Riley for a while,” he said.
“It’s such a good cause, and it’s great to see so many kids out here today. We weren’t expecting anywhere near this many.”
Last year’s ride raised over $40,000 and Fittler said he is hoping this year’s group can eclipse the mark set in 2013.
Despite focusing on the charity work, the former great five-eighth suggested he may slip on the Roosters tri-colours again in 2015.
“We’ll see what happens I think,” he laughed.
Despite showing glimpses of vintage Fittler in the Nines, including one 60 metre runaway, intercept try, he said his body was feeling every one of its 42 years.
“Last time I told the story it was actually a 93 metre try,” he laughed.
“The body pulled up a bit dusty but it was great. My kids had never seen me play before, so to score a try in front of them was just icing on the cake. I was thinking about bringing out the old step, but I was worried something might snap.”
The Hogs for Homeless ride moves on to Cessnock, Tamworth, Tenterfield, Lennox Head, Gold Coast and Port Macquarie in the coming days, before returning, and completing the journey at ANZ Stadium next Thursday.