Nigel Boogaard can’t recall a visit from Breakers or United players when he was at school in Redhead, Tamworth South or Hunter Sports High.
Now the 31-year-old relishes the chance to connect with students as captain of the Newcastle Jets.
He was recognised for his efforts this week, receiving the 2018 community medal from Professional Footballers Australia, and those off-field endeavours look set to continue.
Boogaard, defensive partner Nikolai Topor-Stanley and Jets officials dropped into Kotara South Public School on Thursday and announced a three-year partnership with Greater Bank to continue as the A-League club’s community partner until 2021.
“It’s nice being able to connect with the young kids,” Boogaard said.
“Sometimes, for whatever reason, that doesn’t always get to happen but these are the opportunities where we’re able to go to a school and for a period of time we can try and have a bit of fun with them, get them out of the classroom for a little bit and let them enjoy football.
“Seeing the kids get a buzz out of us going there is great. It’s not hard for us to take the time out of our day to go and have a chat with them and hopefully it inspires them to be future Jets players, whether it’s A-League or W-League.”
On the back of this the Jets, only two months since hosting the A-League grand final, will soon hit the road. The feature will be a game against a regional select side at Port Macquarie Stadium on Tuesday, July 17 after frequenting Foster the day before.
“We represent the whole of Northern NSW really so to get on the road and engage with some of those communities is good,” Boogaard said.
“When I was in Tamworth we didn’t really get any professional teams up there. It’s hard to make that commitment but fortunately we can.”
The Jets, controversially beaten 1-0 by Melbourne Victory in the 2017-2018 decider at McDonald Jones Stadium on May 5, resumed pre-season training last week.
Newcastle coach Ernie Merrick is currently in China with an 18-man squad for the Free Trade Port Super Champions Cup, which starts on Friday.
The appeal hearing for Jets striker Roy O’Donovan, disputing the severity of a 10-match ban, has been scheduled for Tuesday.
Jets chief executive officer Lawrie McKinna, recently returned from the World Cup in Russia, applauded the new deal with Greater Bank.
“They’ve been with the club through thick and thin,” McKinna said.
“Three years ago when they came on the club wasn’t in a great place, but for these guys to come on for another three years just show the confidence in the club.
“Obviously we’ve improved on the park, but we’ve definitely improved off the park.”
Greater Bank’s head of marketing and customer experience Matt Hingston was pleased to be back on board.
“When we first partnered with the Jets they didn’t really have a community program at all and they weren’t getting out into the schools,” Hingston said.
“So we created the Jets Connect program … over that three-year period we got to reach 5,500 kids and we’re hoping that again.”
Kotara South Public School scored Thursday’s coaching clinic with the Jets after winning a “decorate your gate” competition in the lead up to last season’s grand final.