Veteran Richmond Rabbits centre Sam Hedges is urging young rugby league players to stick with the game in the region, saying that there are quality pathways in the sport.
Sam has played more than 80 Tasman Rugby League matches over the past seven seasons and says while he came back to the game too late at 21, the chance to make league a career is there.
Sam, who is the top try scorer for the Rabbits so far in 2017, says some players don’t realise how great the opportunities are.
“I know when I got back into it I was asked how old I was and when I said 21 they would say that I was too old but there are plenty of (former NRL scouts) out there and people with contacts who are watching. I don’t think many of the young guys, the 17 and 18 year olds, playing our game know how close they are to that sort of thing.”
Sam says he started playing the game through his step father and made his TRL debut in 2011 for Motueka before a season with Wanderers Wolves and now five seasons with the Rabbits.
He credits his combination with Rabbits teammate and cousin Hayden Smith as being instrumental in his attacking exploits.
“We’ve been playing league, kicking a ball around for as long as I can remember and he knows where I pop up during a game.
Sam has also been known for his durability, as shown when he played on in last year’s TRL final with a torn tendon in his shoulder which kept him out of work for six weeks following the match. I still have the desire to play representative rugby league which obviously couldn’t happen last year but that’s what I’m aiming for in 2017.”
Sam says he is committed to ensuring the Rabbits remain a strong part of rugby league but he does see his next role looming. “I’d love to be a coach so maybe in three or four years I’ll look to pass on the knowledge some great coaches have given me. Having said that, if the Rabbits need me then I’ll be there with gear and boots on the sideline, ready to go.”