Nathan Ross can still remember when he was a starry-eyed primary school student sitting in the crowd looking up at NRL players visiting his school.
More than a decade later, he’s now the one on stage speaking about his life as a professional rugby league player.
“This is a highlight today,” Ross said.
“I was always one of the kids sitting in the school hall looking up at the NRL players coming out to the school thinking, one day, I want to be able to do that.
“I guess it’s a tick off my bucket list to be able to come out to the schools.”
The Newcastle Knights were out in the community again as part of the NRL’s Community Carnival with Ross, Carlos Tuimavave and Brock Lamb visiting hundreds of excited school children on Wednesday.
The players spread the message of health and wellbeing to students at Morpeth, Tarro, Beresfield and Thornton Public schools.
“Today was a good opportunity to get out to a few local schools in the Hunter region through the Community Carnival which is an NRL initiative,” Ross said.
“It’s all about wellbeing which incorporates kid’s diets, the importance of exercise and mental health as well."
Ross started playing rugby league when he was four years old and describes playing professionally for the Newcastle Knights as a dream come true.
He also concedes the players probably gain more from the experience of spreading healthy lifestyle messages than the attentive students.
“It was actually pretty rewarding,” he said.
“We got to stand up in front of both schools and have questions asked to us.
“We explained how a healthy diet and lifestyle can lead to a healthy mind and can make you feel better within yourself."
As the 2015 season looms, Ross has months of pre-season training under his belt and believes he’s in the best shape he’s ever been in.
“My health and wellbeing is probably at an all time high,” he said.
“It’s been a hard pre-season, but I’m starting to see the rewards now and I know everyone else in the squad is the same.
This school visits have been a highlight in his pre-season and he hopes to inspire young students to set goals and work towards them.
“Hopefully I was able to engage one or two of them, so they know if you follow your dreams and keep pushing hard, you’ll get there one day," he said.
“I also hope it encourages other kids at the grassroot level to put on their football boots and start kicking the ball around, boys and girls.”