6 August 2023

Help the South Coast Sea Eagles soar into the 2023 Koori Knockout

| Zoe Cartwright
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South Coast Sea Eagles player Tremayne Chatfield in action. Photo: Supplied.

A new South Coast Koori Knockout side needs sponsors to help spread its wings.

The region last won the Knockout back in 2019 as the South Coast Black Cockatoos – the first South Coast side to do so in all 49 years of the Knockout’s history.

The side took to the field again in Nowra last year, but organisers had to take a step back this year.

Yuin man Mason Harrison didn’t want to lose South Coast men to other regions – playing together helps inspire the next generation with healthy role models for kids to look up to and to strive to be like.

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The South Coast Sea Eagles were born.

“I’ve seen the sea eagle a lot in recent years, and it felt like a good omen,” he explained.

“The sea eagle represents the coast from Wollongong right down to the Victorian border, and we’ve got players from the whole South Coast, not just one town.

“We’re all connected, we’re all Yuin people and it shows our connection. We’re not just from one town on the South Coast, we’re the whole South Coast.

“We want to keep local men playing for their people. We have some phenomenal talent down here and we don’t want to lose it.”

rugby league jersey

The Sea Eagles’ jersey features significant mountains from Eden to Wollongong as well as Bhundoo, also known as the Clyde River. Photo: Supplied.

Organising the side is a labour of love for Mr Harrison, who is a father-of-five and runs his own bricklaying company.

One of his earliest memories is travelling to the Koori Knockout in Dubbo with his family, and he’s determined to make sure the next generation has the same opportunities he did.

“I started playing when I was 15, gradually moved up the ranks and nearly won it in 2009 before we were beaten in the grand final,” he said.

“We put a team in every year after that, but didn’t win it until 2019.

“It’s become part of our culture, it’s a modern-day corroboree, one of the biggest gatherings for Aboriginal people.

“You get to see some of the biggest names in the game, and ordinary players get to challenge themselves against those elite players.

“People want to win it for their communities, their home towns, their regions, so when they come to play for their teams they lift to the occasion.

“There are some young kids that are oozing talent and confidence and have the same skill level as some of these big names and they want to show class and showcase what they want to offer, to make a name for themselves.

“It’s not just a showcase for players’ talents, it’s for Aboriginal people in the media, in management, in coaching and organisation, everyone gets to shine.”

As one of the members of the winning side in 2019, he also has a personal interest in bringing the trophy home.

Despite the emergence of ”super sides” over the past few years, Mr Harrison said the South Coast had as good a shot as anyone at the main event.

“You don’t need these super sides to win. With the right people and the right recipe, anything can happen,” he said.

“We’ve got players like Treigh Stewart, he’s had a couple of runs for the Dragons, and young Clyde Parsons, who represents the Wallaga area, and he’s becoming a real talent and a real leader.

“Young Tremayne Chatfield, they’re going to be some of the big names in our team, without exposing too much of our line-up.”

So the side has the drive, the talent and the passion – but it takes more than that to bring home Knockout glory.

This includes organising training sessions for players spread across hours of coastline, with commitments to different clubs, as well as work and family responsibilities.

Despite the obstacles, Mr Harrison is confident they’ll get a few good group sessions in before the end of September.

Then there’s the logistics of taking the side away for the weekend.

Like any sport side with big goals, ensuring the players only have to think about the game is key.

“Everyone’s got families, everyone’s got work, everyone’s got stuff going on, so it’s incredibly tough,” Mr Harrison said.

“Then in the background, it’s raising money on the phone, sending emails, building relationships with sponsors and trainers, coaches, trying to keep the relationship with players and keeping them on board, because you have clubs in other regions that are chasing them as well.

“You have to find the formula so the team performs at its peak, because on game day it’s one loss and you’re out.

“There’s a lot of work that goes in behind the scenes: accommodation for the weekend, and food. You want your players at their best, you don’t want them struggling for money and accommodation. If you can make things easy for players, they’ll play at their best.”

Mr Harrison is still on the hunt for sponsors and donations to the club’s 2023 Koori Knockout campaign.

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The side is hoping for $30,000 to get to Tuggerah on 29 September, and three tiers of sponsorship are available.

“We need any sort of support – it doesn’t have to be money, it could be just coming on and giving a hand, any ideas people could throw at us to help the team to perform in a better way and the club to be at peak performance on the weekend,” Mr Harrison said.

“Any support goes a long way, from a bunch of water bottles or training gear or hats.”

To back the South Coast Sea Eagles’ 2023 Koori Knockout campaign, phone Mr Harrison on 0431 084 342 or email him at [email protected].

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