It was certainly a fascinating trip down memory lane for Ballina-raised Tyrone Roberts and Brian Kelly when visited their old school and footy field today.
Both attended Ballina public school in the heart of town and enjoyed heading back there this morning to try to inspire and encourage year 6 students.
In the afternoon it was back to Ballina Seagulls’ ground, Kingsford Smith Park, where not only did they play their junior rugby league but, in Brian’s case, he enjoyed his greatest victory to date.
When a 17-year-old year 12 student in 2013, he played on the wing in the Seagulls’ first of three successive grand final victories, scoring a try late in the game.
“It’s a great memory and it was good to be back here today and see some familiar faces and family,” the 19-year-old outside back said.
“It was a bit weird being back at primary school too, and some good memories came flashing back. I saw my little cousin Richie in one of the classrooms but he’s pretty shy so he didn’t say a lot.
“I have a lot of family still here and it’s great to be back here as a Titans player and hopefully doing them proud and showing some of the young players of the area that they can come back one day too as a Titan too.”
Roberts, the 24-year-old halfback who joined the Aquis Titans this season from Newcastle Knights, also has a lot of family in Ballina and enjoyed spending Christmas there with relatives.
His story is different in that he left as a 14-year-old to take advantage of better academic and football opportunities at Hunter Sports High and graduated through the Knights ranks, playing 97 NRL games for the Newcastle outfit.
He too enjoyed seeing familiar faces among the many who came down to the ground to watch this afternoon’s training session, and hopes he is doing his hometown proud.
“I will always be indebted to the Knights for giving me my break in the NRL but it is good being just up the road now on the Gold Coast and playing for the Titans who have a close association with the Northern Rivers,” he said.
“It is good being close to family and friends again and them being able to come to our home games. It’s a new challenge for me which I’m really enjoying.”
The Titans squad have been in camp in Ballina since yesterday afternoon and have mixed training and planning with school visits in Ballina, Alstonville and Coraki. They return to the Gold Coast tomorrow.
Northern Rivers developed players in the current squad include Kelly, Roberts, David Mead (Lismore), Luke Douglas (Yamba) and Anthony Don (Grafton).