Young rugby league players from Inverell enjoy new experiences and warm hospitality in shire

Thirty-seven youngsters from the bush enjoyed new experiences and warm hospitality in Sutherland Shire over the the Queen's Birthday long weekend.

Cronulla Caringbah Junior Rugby League Football Club played host to the players, both boys and girls, from the Inverell Hawks Minor League under 12s and 14s teams.

Seventeen officials and parents from Inverell were also welcomed into shire homes.

The two clubs have an exchange program that has continued for 52 years.

They take turns to visit each other, and this year it was Cronulla Caringbah's turn to play host, with the the visitors billeted with local families.

Several young players from Inverell who have taken part in previous years have gone to become stars of the game.

They include Preston Campbell, Nathan Blacklock, Owen Craigie and Bevan French.

A number of future NRL stars from the shire have also made the trip to Inverell.

Cronulla Caringbah president Todd Ganderton said it was the longest-running exchange program they were aware of between two junior sports clubs.

The program was started by a Cronulla Caringbah official Barry Spalding after he was transferred to Inverell in his job.

"Barry decided to give the country kids a look at city life, and vice versa," Mr Ganderton said.

"It requires a lot of organisation, but it has been great for the kids from both areas.

"Some of these kids who came down this year had never seen the beach or an NRL game before, and we were able to give them both experiences."

This year's visit had extra importance because of the drought.

Inverell Shire Council says, "The drought has hit the region hard and some people in the community are doing it particularly tough".

A full program of activities was arranged for the visitors, who arrived on Friday night and went home on Tuesday.

On Saturday they visited shire attractions, including the historic precinct at Kurnell, and were given a tour of PointsBet Stadium (Shark Park).

They attended the Saturday evening game between the Sharks and the Parramatta Eels and had the chance to meet the players.

On Sunday, they were in the surf at Wanda, with lessons on board riding provided by Cronulla Surf Academy.

The two clubs then got together at the Cronulla Caringbah home ground at Greenhills for some "friendlies" and a barbecue.

The games were played in a great spirit and jumpers were swapped at half time to make the players feel they were all on the one team.

On Monday, the Inverell group travelled to Homebush where they visited the NRL Museum and watched the Dragons-Eels game, in which one thee club's products, Bevan French, played.