NRL greats carving it up in the bush
EX-NRL players kicking the Steeden around in bush footy have a monumental impact on the game of rugby league in the country.
The locals turn up in droves to line the hills in support of stars who give back to the game that threw them into the limelight.
We've run our eye across a host of competitions across country New South Wales and Queensland to compile a list of former NRL players doing their part for the game in regional areas.
From Albury, out to Wellington, all the way up north to Mount Isa, the country is littered with rugby league royalty.
Dane Tilse: The former Knight and Raider is currently plying his trade in the Newcastle competition with the Maitland Pickers. The 200cm skyscraper was suspended for two matches midseason after being sent off for his part in a brawl against Cessnock. The Sunday Telegraph's Bush Beat column reported last year Maitland had claimed consecutive wooden spoons, but Tilse's arrival sparked the side with his invaluable experience.
Adam Clydsdale: The former Raider called time on his NRL career early in 2018 while still more than capable of mixing it with rugby league's elite. Clydsdale, 25, had a contract with the Green Machine for the current season, but after a heart-to-heart with club officials he decided he wanted to pursue interests outside of rugby league. Clydsdale is currently playing alongside Tilse at Maitland.
Paul Carter: Off-field indiscretions hampered the 40-game career of the former Rabbitohs, Roosters and Titans forward. Carter is currently playing with the Cessnock Goannas, where his return to club footy produced a high shot, brawl and sin-bin. His short-lived NRL career was spread across four season starting in 2014 with the Titans (21 matches), 2015 and 2016 with the Rabbitohs (16 matches) and 2017 with the Roosters (three matches).
Brad Murray: Is the name ringing any bells? Murray's promising future with Parramatta was cut short after the club mutually agreed to release him as a result of stresses he faced from the Ryan Tandy betting scandal back in 2010. Murray is currently playing for Central Newcastle in the halves alongside former Samoan international Terence Seu Seu.
I think country footy is a great way to transition post NRL to the rest of your life. -Joel Reddy
Glenn Stewart: The Manly great returned to his junior club Wests Devils this season in the Illawarra competition following a stint in the English Super League. Stewart won two premierships with the Sea Eagles and claimed the Clive Churchill Medal as man-of-the-match in the 2011 decider against the Warriors.
Beau Henry: The Warrilla Gorillas junior underwhelmed in his 14-game NRL stint with the Titans and Knights after being named NYC Player of the Year in 2009. In 2016, Henry spearheaded the Dapto Canaries to their first Illawarra title in 10 years alongside former NRL player Keith Lulia. Henry has since returned to the Intrust Super Premiership with Wentworthville.
Joel Reddy: The son of Rocket Rod played in the back-row as part of the stacked Dapto Canaries outfit that took out the 2016 premiership. Reddy remains at the club following a 137-game NRL career with the Eels, Tigers and Rabbitohs.
Jeff Robson: Keeping in line with the Canaries theme, Beau Henry was replaced in 2018 by Parramatta's 2009 grand final halfback Jeff Robson. Robson's low-key exit from the NRL summed up his career, with the reliable quiet-achiever notching 177 games over 14 years for the Eels, Sea Eagles, Sharks and Warriors. The Dapto team is captain-coached by former Dragon Michael Henderson.
You get the ex-NRL players, but we are not going back to try and make first grade again. We are going back to give back to the game and help some of the younger players coming through the grades. -Joel Reddy
John Doyle: The 41-year-old former Cowboys player laced up the boots this season for Town in the Mount Isa League. Doyle played a handful of games for the club this season, including one for a depleted 9-man side who faced competition heavyweights Cloncurry Eagles in 30-degree heat. Doyle's career was cruelled by injury, having played for Wayne Bennett's Maroons in 2001-02 before retiring after the 2002 season due to a knee injury. Doyle came out of retirement in Ricky Stuart's 2005 Roosters outfit for 10 games, but retired for good shortly after following advice from his surgeon.
Ben Hannant: While it's not quite country football, we thought it'd be worth noting the Polar Bear is running around with the Burleigh Bears in the Intrust Super Cup. Alongside Mat Rogers, Hannant completed a German Ironman event this year that involved a 3.8km swim, 42.2km run and 180km bike ride. Hannant played 245 games for the Roosters, Broncos, Bulldogs and Cowboys, as well as featuring for Queensland and Australia.
Terry Campese: The Raiders legend returned to his local club Queanbeyan Blues where he led the side to the 2017 premiership. Campo kicked a field-goal in the victory over bitter crosstown rivals Queanbeyan Kangaroos. The gun five-eighth was a near unstoppable force for a short period between 2008 and 2010 where he represented New South Wales and Australia. Unfortunately, Campese never returned to his lofty heights following a devastating ACL injury in Canberra's 2010 semi-final loss to the Tigers.
Aaron Gorrell: Campese's grand final win came against former NRL player Aaron Gorrell. Gorrell took over at the Queanbeyan Kangaroos as captain-coach in 2012 and has remained there to this day. The goal-kicking hooker played 60 NRL games for the Dragons and Broncos.
Lincoln Withers: Feeling old yet? Withers played 267 first grade games across the NRL and English Super League, most prominently with the Raiders between 2005 and 2008. Withers signed with his junior club Woden Valley Rams this year after spending the previous four seasons with the Gungahlin Bulls.
Matt Utai: The iconic Bulldogs 2004 premiership winner dusted off the boots in the Group 6 competition with the Moss Vale Dragons this season. Utai made the switch to gridiron in 2016 where he scored four touch downs as a running back on debut for UTS.
Joe Williams: The former NRL gun has played a handful of games in between his admirable work in mental health promotion. His latest outing was for the Grenfell Goannas. Before the game he said, "I'm not a fat mess, but I'm a lot heavier than I'd like to be." In 2007, Williams spearheaded the Rabbitohs' first finals appearance since 1989.
We are struggling to get kids playing and people through the gate. If I can have a small impact on people it is only going to be beneficial. -Joe Williams
Karlos Filiga: Dubbed 'the next SBW' when signed by Cronulla as a teenager, Filiga never hit his immense expectations playing just one NRL game in 2008 for the Sharks. Filiga is terrorising opposition defenders in the Group 16 competition with the Cooma Stallions, who he helped to their first premiership in 23 years in 2017.
Dane Nielsen: The former Queensland Origin centre fell off the map in rugby league circles towards the back end of his career. In 2017 he was in his second year of a contract with the Rabbitohs that was later torn up. In 2018 he was named captain-coach of the Junee Diesels in Group 9, but failed to play a game after being dumped by the club due to off-field misbehaviour.
Danny Wicks: The former Knights, Dragons and Eels forward has spent the past two seasons as captain-coach of the Grafton Ghosts in Group 2. Wicks helped the club claim the Clayton Cup as the most dominant side in New South Wales country rugby league in 2017. Wicks left the Eels in 2016 as the club continued to reel from the salary cap scandal, saying "it hurts me that I had to go, but it's something I had to do for myself".
Joel Monaghan: The former Kangaroo, Raider and Rooster took up an option to join the English Super League following an infamous Mad Monday incident. Monaghan is in his first season in Group 9 with the Albury Thunder alongside ex-Canberra teammate Adrian Purtell. He played 165 matches at NRL level across two stints with the Raiders and one with the Roosters. He also scored an impressive 145 tries in 145 matches with the Warrington Wolves.
Nathan Merritt: The Rabbitohs legend was a major drawcard this season for the Wellington Cowboys in Group 11, but has gone on to play just the sole game due to personal reasons. Merritt is South Sydney's all-time leading try-scorer having crossed the line 146 times. Merritt is joined at the club by Newcastle Knights premiership winner Timana Tahu who works with the club in a mentoring role, however he hasn't strapped on the boots this season.