In sport, sometimes the cause is more important than the result.
That was certainly the case for the Ngallu Wal Panthers when the side competed in its first Kids in Care Cup on Saturday.
The group of 17 under-9s players travelled to Wollongong for the annual Indigenous rugby league tournament, which raises awareness about the importance of foster care in Aboriginal communities.
Manager Melissah Leigh, who works at Ngallu Wal Aboriginal Child and Family Centre at Doonside, founded the team this year.
Ms Leigh said the purpose of bringing the team together was to give the boys the priceless opportunity of representing the local Indigenous community.
“It wasn’t our day on the scoreboard but the result we did have was the friendships between these local Aboriginal boys who previously didn’t know each other,” she said. “It was all about a celebration of culture.”
Players from clubs including St Marys, Seven Hills, Minchinbury, Doonside and St Clair made up the squad and they trained under coach Steve Kerr for the last two months.
It was the first time the 7 and 8-year-olds had played a game on an international sized field with international rules.
The team was knocked out in the first round, however, there were some individual success stories for a pair of Ngallu Wal players.
Liam Jackson crossed for the Panthers’ first every try in a competitive match and Craig-Preston Trindall was honoured with the competition’s best and fairest award.
Ms Leigh said the introduction of the team provided a fun way for the youngsters to connect with their culture.
“They learnt a little bit more about their culture, were encouraged to embrace the pride in their culture and community and are now members of their own team.”
She said she is already planning for next year and hopes to enter a team in each of the three age groups.
“Next year we will have more time to prepare and we now have that experience under our belt.
“Everyone no knows who the Ngallu Wal Panthers are.
“I really want to thank all the families and are sponsors Youth Hope and Wipeout Pest Control for their amazing support.”