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Junior Footy Safer and More Fun Than Ever

Words: Martin Gabor, National Correspondent , NRL.com

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There has never been a better time for parents to sign their kids up to play junior rugby league with sweeping changes to the sport set to make weekend footy safer, more enjoyable and better for their development.  

Each age group from under-6s upwards will have its own set of rules with an eye to development, but the overarching function of the new format is for young kids to have fun on the weekends with their mates.

Former Eels great – and father of four – Nathan Hindmarsh, has two children currently playing for the Rouse Hill Rhinos and is excited about the new interpretations. 

"All sports at that age should be a bit of a fun with a focus on socialising, learning what it's like to be on a team and what it's like to go to training," Hindmarsh told NRL.com. 

"It's great to win, but that's not the most important thing, and it's also a good place to learn how to lose graciously.

"I'm someone who doesn't take sport too seriously when I'm watching them on the sidelines. I'm just happy if my boys want to play rugby league and I get a thrill from the fact they want to play sport on the weekends."

The former Eels skipper revealed he didn't start playing rugby league until he was 12, but that didn't stop him from becoming the most prolific tackler in NRL history. 

And while his kids got a head-start in their rugby league development, he said he and his sons still had a couple of things in common. 

"One of them got beaten in the grand final this year so I guess it's like father like son," he joked. 

"There was no footy for my age group in my home town in Robertson. I started playing for Moss Vale Dragons when I realised my sister didn't want to go into the backyard and play anymore. 

"I started in the under-12 'B' team, but they didn't have enough numbers so they had to merge both sides together and that was it."

Hindmarsh said one of the most important things to teach children at a young age is that winning isn't the most important thing about sport. 

And despite making over 12,000 tackles in his 330-game NRL career, Hindmarsh doesn't think coaches need to rush in when it comes to teaching new skills. 

"It's part of the game but it's not the be all and end all at that age," he said. 

"I didn't start learning to tackle properly until I was 12. I knew how to hold onto someone thanks to dad in the backyard, but that was about it. 

"Like a lot of the kids, before they actually start playing, they'll be playing in the schoolyard or with their own mates and they can naturally learn the techniques. 

"It's important that we do teach them the right ways because that will help prevent injuries."

For more information or to get involved visit NRL.com/play

This article first appeared on NRL.com