At a time when the NRL’s highest paid stars are being accused of greediness for demanding even more cash, a kid from the country has reminded every one about playing for the love of the game.
Harry Grove estimates he travelled 20,000km during the Harold Matthews season to Western Suburbs Magpies training.
That’s 750km a day from Tumut to Liverpool and back, all with a broken arm which meant he couldn’t even play.
“I sometimes got the Greyhound bus at 4 am in the morning from Gundagai which got me to Liverpool at 11 am in the morning.
“I went to training in the afternoon, then got the interstate bus back again at 8 pm, getting me home around 1 am in the morning. “ Said Grove
Asked why he undertook such epic journeys, Grove says simply, “I love playing footy.
“Coming from the country it’s a big opportunity to play in the Harold Matthews competition and Wests have one of the best junior development programs.
“I want to play footy at the highest level I can achieve. “ Said Grove
Even Grove’s teammates didn’t fully appreciate the scale of his effort.
“I don’t think many of the boys knew much about it until Coach Scotty pulled me up at training one night before I was about to leave for the 8.00pm bus and told the boys about how long it took for me to get to training, that when the boys are in bed sleeping I will still be on the bus getting home at around 1.00am.
“I don’t think many of them know where Tumut is, being a small country town. It’s the sort of place they might have taken a camping holiday.” Said Grove
“Coach Scotty is Scott Hartas, head of the Magpies u16 Harold Matthews side, who speaks highly of his young charge.
“He’d come in to training keen as mustard. He’s a great kid, pleasure to coach, great skills. He’s going to be a great footballer.
“He’s got such class about him. It doesn’t matter how high you hit a bomb, he’ll catch it.
“It’s funny when you coach, you get a bloke in and you think “oh my god”, I wish I could have 25 of him.
“The main thing about him is his attitude, he’ll make it.”
Harry shows maturity beyond his age, especially when asked how his parents felt about his travels, “I have very supportive parents and they are with me all the way.
“My parents have given up a lot of their time to run me all around the country from Dubbo to Sydney to Albury and even Tamworth.
“My mum and dad and older brother all helped with the driving. Coming from the country we are used to doing a lot of traveling for weekend sport.” Said Grove.
The incredible amount of time Grove gave up did see him consider throwing the towel in, but this young Magpie is made of stern stuff.
“It ran through my mind a few times with my broken arm being an excuse as well as school work. But I kind of had a vision of making it back for at least one more game.
“I like training and if you want a place in a team you have got to put in the effort …I think that’s what got me there in the end.”
Grove was inevitably rewarded for his commitment as his arm healed towards final rounds of the competition, “It was pretty hard sitting on the bench wanting to play but the season went pretty quick and I made it back against Penrith as starting fullback.
When questioned about the recent demands for more money from those at the top of the NRL tree, which included threats of strike action, Grove’s considered response again highlights his maturity. “It’s hard to answer.
“If you enjoy what you’re doing, money shouldn’t really be an issue.
“If you’re doing something you love and getting good money even better.
“But then again, I guess footy is a job for these guys, so like everyone else they just want as much as they can get.”
Grove has simple goals, “I want to play in the SG Ball (u18s) for Wests and hopefully make 1st grade for St Greg’s.”
But like all young players across the rugby league world, he dreams of playing on the greatest stages, “I want to play in the World Cup for either Papua New Guinea or England.”
And his coach seems to think Grove will achieve his dream sooner than he thinks.
“He’d make the Papua New Guinea side next year!”
Like all good country boys though, his loyalty to his hometowndoesn’t take too long to come up, “Hopefully one day I’ll end up playing back home for Tumut Blues first grade.”
The question of loyalty and commitment is raised again. Does he believe his heroes in the NRL still have their passion for footy?
“I hope so because they are the players that all the kids playing Saturday morning footy look up to.”
by AJ Carr