By Troy Whittaker
Day two of the Men of League Foundation’s Tackling the Drought Tour began yesterday morning with an NRL skills clinic at Narromine’s Cale Oval.
Almost 40 keen kids were put through their paces by NRL representatives and the visiting rugby league legends before queuing for photos and autographs.
Seeing the youngsters smile and laugh as they threw the footy around was something former Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs and Sydney Roosters star Rod Silva enjoyed immensely.
“It was great – it was a fantastic turnout. It was good to see them doing those clinics with the NRL. It’s real nice stuff,” said Silva.
Following the training session, it was time to depart Narromine and head to Trangie for a lunch stop at the Imperial Hotel.
The tour enjoyed a delicious barbecue alongside the Psychs on Bikes, a group of mental health professionals travelling from Perth to Sydney on motorbikes in a crusade for emotional wellbeing.
After chatting with locals over ice-cold beers – again thanks to Lion – and bidding farewell to the Psychs on Bikes, the bus made its way to the homely Collie Hotel.
It was there that arguably the most stirring moment of the trip occurred, when Mark ‘Bushy’ Thompson – a renowned swagman and bush poet – gave an inspired impromptu performance of a poem he wrote about the drought.
His passion touched everyone and gave a real sense of the pain rural communities are forced to endure during these hard times.
A few more beverages and yarns with the Collie folk were had until the tour hit the road again to Gilgandra.
More than 75 people attended an event at the Gilgandra Bowling Club to meet and greet their footballing heroes over dinner.
Greg Florimo, Peter Kelly, David Gillespie, Gary Walsh and Darren Britt provided the entertainment for the evening, regaling the crowd with tales from their playing days and answering audience questions.
Those at the Bowling Club clearly appreciated the players’ presence. Silva says it was a surreal moment.
“Meeting the people that are struggling and seeing how welcoming they are is [special],” he said.
“I think a few of them met people they really admire for what they did in their careers, so it’s been really nice.”
The final part of the tour of the Western Region concludes today, starting with a touch football match and barbecue breakfast in Mudgee at 10am.
To view photos from the Western Region Bus’ tour, click here.