The opportunity for those youths in any form of juvenile detention to hear rugby league players talk and discuss future options for them is few and far between, but for the girls at the Juniperina Detention Centre in Lidcombe, they were offered the chance to listen to Parramatta Eels halves Chris Sandow and Luke Kelly.
For Sandow, who was raised in the Queensland town of Cherbourg, approximately 3 and a half hours from Brisbane, he has vivid memories as to when he turned his back on getting on the wrong side of the law, with help from his family and friends.
“I do have a lot of friends who have been in and out of jail from Cherbourg,” Sandow said.
“I chose not to hang around them while they were doing stupid stuff, you know. It’s not easy, because all your friends are doing it and you want to do it too. Sometimes you’ve got to step back and realise the consequences of what you’re doing.
“When I had the opportunity to come to Souths, my mum sat me down and said: ‘What do you want from life? You’ve never worked a day in your life.’ I said there’s always footy. She said: ‘If you put your mind to it, you can make it.'”
“I had to be home before dark at my house and if we weren’t, we’d get a big flogging. That’s something I was really scared of, my mum and dad. You don’t want to get a flogging. That’s something me and my brothers had. That’s why I’m here today.”
Life was not all rosy for the Eels halfback – as a teenager, he got mixed up in a life of drugs, unemployment and domestic violence.
Now, however, Sandow has come a long way, and has distanced himself from those in Cherbourg who continue to get into severe trouble.
In light of the visit to the detention centre, Sandow hopes that both he and Kelly managed to give the girls some hope for the future.
“Yeah, mate, it was really welcoming. The girls welcomed us with open arms and hopefully with me and Luke coming here today, the girls can see something different outside of here,” said Sandow.
“That’s what Luke and I planned to do when we came here, and we just finished a game of touch footy with the girls.”
Sandow focused on the early struggles he faced in life and the bad influences that he had growing up. delivering important messages to the girls.
“You know, to just stay focused and follow the right people when you’re outside here,” Sandow said.
“You don’t have to do the things that they do, you can still be friends – but just go home early and do the right things and listen to your mum and dad.”
Adversity was something that Sandow faced a lot of, with his key motto in life something rather simple – just be yourself.
“100% mate. If you want to be somebody else, and it fails, it lets you down, you know?” said Sandow.
“You know that you can be yourself and fail at things, but you learn from that and hopefully it’s a learning curve for these girls here, so hopefully when they get out, things can start changing in their lives.