Dean of Armidale into bat for kids

PARRAMATTA star Dean Widders continued his commitment to country junior football with a flying visit to his hometown Armidale on Saturday to lend support to the city’s proposed new junior league.

Widders signed autographs and spoke to dozens of youngsters at Armidale Rugby League Park little more than 12 hours after his Friday night NRL win over St George-Illawarra in which he played a starring role.

His main message to those who attended was rugby league is of vital importance to juniors in Armidale and throughout the bush.

He urged locals to get behind the effort to get junior league back in the town after it came to a halt this year.

He said he was certainly committed to doing whatever he could.

“It’s pretty disappointing,” he said of the current lack of junior footy.

“It’s vital that we get rugby league back on track.

“There are a lot of obstacles for kids in the bush and hopefully I can help overcome some of those obstacles.”

Widders said the game helps shape character and keeps youngsters occupied and wondered what he and other local stars like Dennis and Mick Moran and Stuart Webb would be without rugby league.

He said as a youngster in Armidale, playing league was a huge part of his life and he doesn’t want the kids of today to miss out.

“I loved it,” he said.

“It was the biggest day of my life every Saturday when I played. And talking to the kids here, they miss their footy.

“They love scoring tries, kicking goals and making tackles. For some kids, footy’s all they’ve got.”

Widders joined CRL development officer Jamie McCormack and other members of the local junior league steering committee in calling for volunteers to get kids playing league again next year.

A public meeting will be held at the Armidale City Bowling Club on Thursday July 21 at 7pm to elect a committee to oversee the new Armidale-based junior league in 2006.

Widders said he and the NRL would lend a hand but it’s up to locals to help get their kids back on the field.

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