Canterbury forward Jackson Topine has experienced first hand the impact the NRL’s In League in Harmony program can have on a person and a family.
The 20-year-old was part of the program when he attended East Hills Boys High School after moving to Australia from New Zealand as a teenager.
Topine played his junior rugby league in Perth before moving to Sydney on scholarship with the school, who were led by one of his sports teachers Paul Carson.
Carson and Topine reunited on Tuesday as part of the NRL’s launch of multi-cultural round.
The NRL’s In League In Harmony program has been running since 2012 and aims to raise awareness of the cultural diversity within the game and in society.
The six-week program includes delivering key messages through theory classroom work before physical activity around learning the skills of rugby league.
“I think it made me more confident to be able to speak in front of other people,” Topine said.
“At the time you’re with younger kids so they look up to you especially when you’re at school. It was cool to have that responsibility, that leadership role growing up.
“It’s helped me develop as a person and as a footy player as well.
“I didn’t really know what it was at the time but Joe Galuvao was one of my instructors and it was my dream at the time to play in the NRL so I was keen to be part of the program.”
Carson, who has helped deliver the program to hundreds of students during his time at the school, recalled Topine and his brothers Keegan and Brayden.
“The program was perfect for Jackson,” Carson said.
“He was going to gala days where he was helping out and just showing the skill of compassion, for example with children who have disabilities. He just went that little extra level with helping out.
“You could see early on he had natural leadership skills and was very goal-driven. It helped him make sure he was focused to make sure he got through he got to year 12.
“We want the boys to stay in school for as long as they can.”