WALLABIES legend David Campese said the importance of NSW Country to Australian rugby should never be understated.
Campese will be joined by a host of Waratahs players at an open day at No.2 Sportsground on Sunday.
Next door at No.5 Sportsground, more than 70 of the region's best players aged between 16 and 19 will attend a Combine.
The players will be measured on athletic ability and rugby skills and awareness, which will form part of the selection process for a NSW Waratahs satellite academy to be based in Newcastle.
Both events are in the lead up to the historic Super Rugby clash between the Waratahs and Sunwolves to be played at McDonald Jones Stadium on June 29.
"The Waratahs can see there is an opportunity to grow the sport up here," Campese said. "If you look at history, a lot of the better players have come from the country. By NSW doing things like playing a Super rugby game up here and trying to develop and promote country kids, it shows they realise how important the area is. Country is a big part of the game's future."
The open day, which is for kids aged five to 12, includes skills sessions conducted by Campese and Waratahs players and an under-10s sevens tournament.
"Kids have to see their heroes and want to be like them," Campese said. "Find someone they like in their position and watch what they do and don't do on the field. That is how you learn."
"Getting players up here is vital. Kids see their heroes, can touch them and listen to them. That really gets kids interested in the sport."
Campese, in his role with the Australian Rugby Foundation, held coaching and skills session in Maitland, Nelson Bay and Merewether last weekend.
"I concentrate on basic skills," he said. "You can't do the flare unless you can do the simple things. It is a chance for them to meet someone who has played at a high level as well. I talk to them, have a bit of fun, talk to the coaches about what the kids should be doing. The emphasis is on fun. If I'm having fun, they are having fun."