The Parramatta Eels left Armidale today after three days of training at altitude and meeting many of their New England supporters.
The University of New England is a jersey sponsor of the Eels this year, and the National Rugby League team arrived in Armidale on Tuesday 31 January for their pre-season training camp at UNE.
Staying at UNE’s Mary White College, the team members trained at SportUNE as well as meeting hundreds of fans at a civic reception in the Armidale Mall, conducting a coaching clinic in town for more than 100 junior Rugby League players, and dining with more than 400 community members at a “Dinner with the Eels”.
UNE and Armidale Dumaresq Council sponsored the Eels’ visit to Armidale, giving the team an opportunity to connect with regional supporters and to experience the international-standard sports training and playing-field facilities at the University.
The Vice-Chancellor of UNE, Professor Jim Barber, said that the University was proud to sponsor the Eels, and that the team’s visit to Armidale had been a great success.
“It has been an exciting week in Armidale, and we were delighted to see hundreds of fans coming from all over the New England region to welcome the team to town,” Professor Barber said. “The sponsorship of the Eels is intended to highlight the University’s developing expertise in sport science teaching and research. It also allows UNE to showcase its campus – including its state-of-the-art sports training facilities.”
The Eels’ head coach, Steve Kearney, said he thought the sponsorship relationship was “a wonderful arrangement”, and had “benefits for both parties”.
Among the benefits for Eels team members, he said, were the “outstanding” training facilities and playing fields at SportUNE, and the opportunities they might offer for an ongoing relationship with the University.
“This has been a wonderful opportunity for the team to get away as a group,” he said. “Living at close quarters they enjoy each other’s company, and that’s important when you’re heading into an NRL season.”
“The interaction with the rural community has also been very important,” Steve Kearney continued. ” Seeing how many supporters were at the civic reception on Tuesday made the players realise that they have an impact outside Sydney.”
And he added that the session with junior Rugby League players had been an opportunity for the team, as representatives of the NRL, to promote the game in a positive way. “We’ve received good feedback from the junior coaching clinic,” he said. “The kids really enjoyed it.”