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Gunnedah @ The Coalface

For almost three decades, Ross Whitaker has organised the annual MEU Miner’s Cup Carnival, giving kids from all over the North West region the opportunity to come together for a day of rugby league and fun.

On Friday May 24, more than 300 students from schools across the North West region travelled to Gunnedah’s Longmuir Playing Fields for the annual rugby league carnival.

Ross, a former Greater Northern region rugby league player, said the event is all about giving kids the opportunity to play rugby league who wouldn’t normally get the chance to.

“We have a lot of small schools around the region that don’t have enough students to form teams, or they don’t have the resources to be able to put on a day like this. When I started this concept all those years ago it was with the aim of giving everyone the opportunity to play.”

Schools travel from as far afield as Narrabri and Manilla, and as the smaller schools may only have a couple of players, composite teams are formed, encouraging the students to socialise and build connections with one another.

Gunnedah @ The Coalface

Ross said the event has grown a lot over the years and while there have been changes, such as to the competition format, the one thing that never changes is instilling in everyone who comes along a love of the sport.

“A lot of these kids don’t have any experience playing rugby league, so we show them valuable skills they can build on. More importantly, it’s about teaching them that the game is all about teamwork, sportsmanship and having fun.”

There’s no doubt the event has played a part in inspiring many players, evidenced by the fact that almost every player in first grade at Narrabri, Boggabri and Gunnedah over the last two decades participated in the carnival in their formative younger years.

While Ross’s dedication has ensured this event continues year after year, it also would not be possible without the sponsors who come onboard which include the MEU Northern Mining and NSW Energy District, Unity Bank, Mine Super, Newcastle Knights and Slater & Gordon.

Robin Williams, MEU Northern Mining and NSW Energy District President said they have been proud supporters of the event since it began.

Gunnedah @ The Coalface

“This is an important event for these small schools who would not be able to put on a day like this without assistance. We see it as a good opportunity for the union to invest money into local communities and local schools and we are really happy to be able to do that,” said Robin.

Every year Ross works to get a high-profile rugby league player out to help inspire the kids. This year rugby league legend Tony Butterfield came along, patiently spending the day signing autographs to the delight of the kids – and more than a few parents too.

“I’m happy to be a part of today. The kids are getting exposed to the game, getting healthy, and everyone loves the day. It’s a real social, community-based event. The people in our communities that do that, like Ross, we often take for granted, but to be a successful community you need them.

“Every year for almost thirty years Ross has been making this event happen and he does most of it on his own. Every community needs a Ross.”

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