JT says indigenous kids need help - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

JT says indigenous kids need help

Wayne Heming 11/02/2011 02:19:42 PM Comments (0)

Having walked the fine line faced by many indigenous children, Johnathan Thurston is thankful his parents and rugby league helped steer him away from dark and lonely times.

Thurston and his Indigenous All Star teammates know many children are not as fortunate, often straying down the wrong path, throwing away their education and their chance of success.

It's why they're so passionate and committed to spreading the gospel to indigenous youths to finish school and make better choices about themselves and their futures.

Thurston's love of a good time have landed the two-time Dally M winner in trouble during his career.

He spent his youth in Brisbane's southern suburbs of Sunnybank before his parents packed him off to St Mary's College in Toowoomba to get him away from the street gangs and to continue his budding rugby league career.

"Growing up in Brissie my parents sent me to Toowoomba to do year 11 and 12 at a rugby league school," said Thurston before the All Stars game.

"Rugby league teaches you to make the right choices to give yourself an opportunity to one day play in the big league."

As a teenager, the Queensland and Test halfback was exposed to things that could easily have led to a bad place.

"When your friends are going down a certain path or whatever you tag along not being your own person," he said.

"Those decisions can have dire consequences.

"I've still got some great mates living in Sunnybank, and I still speak to the kids I grew up with.

"Rugby league has been great for me but this game is not about the players or the game, it's about getting those kids out there to make the right choices and be better in their community."

The All Stars concept, driven by Gold Coast Titans star Preston Campbell, raised $1.5 million last year which was distributed amongst indigenous communities in Australia and New Zealand.

Won 16-12 by the Indigenous side, it was was played on the first Anniversary of then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's national apology to the stolen generations.

Chairman of the Australian Rugby League Indigenous Council, William Smiley Johnstone, said this week the All Star concept had grown to be an enduring symbol of reconciliation.

Johnstone added that the Indigenous programs it had spawned were unique in their focus on changing lives rather than recruiting players."

The image of people, some who'd travelled from as far as Western Australia, crying in the stands and of Wendell Sailor's post try celebration using the corner post as a Didgeridoo, remain with the players.

Many were overwhelmed by the impact it had on indigenous people and which it can continue to have for years to come.

"This is more than a football game." said All Stars halfback Benji Marshall.

"This is something that opens people's eyes."

Former dual international Sailor, who has used his own experience with drugs to educate young children, said he held his Indigenous jumper in the same regard as the ones he wore for Queensland, the Kangaroos and the Wallabies.

"We all need to help support and encourage these kids to stay at school and finish their education so they can make something of their lives and be role models for the next generation, "he said.

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