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Sport Future stars settle in By Mitchell Grima ▼ Players who come to

SHANE Elford just can’t seem to fi nd a way out of Centrebet Stadium. And that’s the way the former Panthers centre likes it. Elford has recently

entered a full time position as Welfare Education Manager at the club and after completing his studies at the Australian College of Physical Education, the 34-year-old is hoping to nurture junior players through the representative system.

“I relocate young guys when they come to the club including SG Ball and NYC (Under 20’s) players that have come from country or rural areas and also New Zealand,” Elford said.

“Coming to Sydney can be quite daunting for them, especially if they are living out of home for the fi rst time.”

The Panthers have identifi ed three key characteristics for helping young players with the transition into professional rugby league: camaraderie, dedication and education. With ten youth players already successfully sharing a house in Cranebrook, Elford believes the welfare system in Penrith is becoming more and more stable. “They work together, train together and live together so it all works out well,” Elford added. “We house them with a family and look at their university and study options as well. “There hasn’t been one incident and it’s a credit to them…the boys have been outstanding and it’s made my job very easy.”

Penrith from rural areas, like Travis Burns, are receiving mentoring from former Panther Shane Elford.

Although there has been an increasing number of young players transferring to Penrith from other areas, Elford hopes the club can soon rely solely on the local talent pool.

“The plan in the future is to not spend money on the salary cap and use our junior players. “We might have failed in the past where kids

come through and we lose them to other clubs so there is a big emphasis on developing local juniors.”

But for now, fostering the bright prospects that have travelled to Penrith from all corners of the state is essential to helping the club grab its third premiership.

Nepean News 26 January 2012 Issue 66 | 31


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