NSW Coach Brad Fittler may have his hands full with the immense, 64 man strong Blues camp he's named to shape the future of the NSW Origin team, but he wasn't above getting himself into the mix during this week's visit to the state's far west.
Fittler headlines a group of Blues greats touring regional remote centres as part of an educational tour and took part in a number of touch footy games with schoolchildren in Walgett alongside Mark O'Meley on Tuesday.
"It's a great opportunity to come out and see the kids for one, you can see they can all pass, they all know how to turn, they've got great hand-eye co-ordination and when they hit the dirt, they get right back up and they're fine," he said.
While the group won't visit Orange the three-day visit revolves around towns in drought-stricken areas of the region - beginning at Walgett then landing at Brewarrina and Bourke - and the key messages are relevant regardless.
"One of the things that I saw was on the agenda was country rugby league, we hear a lot of different stories come out of country rugby league, we do a lot out here in the pre-season," Fittler said.
"Obviously we get to see how the weather's doing at the moment, there's a lot of talk about the drought, the wind coming through here while there's no grass, you can see how that doesn't make you feel too good when everything's covered in dirt."
"One of the big things we're doing is just talking about some of the difficulties out here in the bush in these small, country towns, whether it's getting people involved or having them able to get certificates and all those basic things that we take for granted in the city because of how close we are."
The trip visits six schools across the three day journey, with Fittler indicating that the tour is already changing perceptions.
"It's giving us a good understanding of not just the challenges, but just how strong the love for footy is out here," he said.
O'Meley, who has turned to coaching and mentoring following his retirement from the field, has a already run a number of similar programs, even visiting Dubbo for a youth-focused NSWRL Academy training session earlier in the year.
"The program that we're running out here - the respect program - Mark O'Meley's doing a fantastic job," Fittler said.
"They talk about being part of a team, whether it's your class, your club, your school or your town and just how important it is to be involved and about belonging."
It wasn't all about footy and learning at Waglett, as Fittler also had the chance to join in a Christmas Carols event with locals.
"It was a real beautiful night, it's awesome for us to witness what country towns are like around this time of year," he said.
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