WHEN South Sydney signed Dylan Farrell from the NSW south coast, they not only provided an opportunity for the then 16-year-old to play in the NRL but also for him and his family to show their small Jerrinja community, near Nowra, what they could achieve.
The Rabbitohs boast a proud Aboriginal history and, since joining Souths, Farrell and his teenage sister Katelyn have become role models for the indigenous youngsters of Redfern and Orient Point.
Farrell is considered a future Rabbitohs captain, while 18-year-old Katelyn juggles her year 12 studies with a school-based business traineeship at Qantas and a tourism and events course at TAFE.
Since moving to Botany last year to live with her brother, Katelyn has also championed a Souths Care program at Matraville Sports High - where she is vice-captain - to help other Koori students reach their goals.
So, successful has she been that Katelyn has been nominated for the NRL's Young Indigenous Learn Earn Legend Award, to be announced at Monday night's One Community Awards, and is considered by Souths Cares as a future mentor for the program once she completes her HSC.
She has also been nominated for Aboriginal Employment Services trainee of the year and was selected to take part in an Indigenous Youth Summit as part of the NRL's All Stars week on the Gold Coast.
''There are two other missions in Nowra but our mission is only tiny and whenever we can we try to get back there,'' Katelyn says.
''My dad works for a family relationship centre in Nowra, and he has organised discos and homework clubs and counsels kids who need help, so it is something we have probably always been aware of.
''Dylan has seen some of our older cousins have an opportunity to play footy like he is now but they have thrown that opportunity away … I definitely think he sees himself as a role model … He will go out to the school at La Perouse and read books and he will go the hospital and visit sick kids, and he is always getting stuff signed for kids who are sick.''
Farrell says having his sister move to Sydney with him had helped him cope with the homesickness that curtailed his father Darryll's chance to play for Parramatta.
''I have got a lot of relatives that have the potential to do this sort of thing but they found it a little hard,'' Farrell says. ''Luckily I had the support of my parents that they didn't have when they were younger.''
Despite being chosen to play SG Ball for the Illawarra Steelers in 2007, his father preferred him to join the Rabbitohs. ''Souths have got a lot of Koori players in the team, which is really good, and I think it also good for Dylan to be surrounded by his own people,'' Katelyn says.
Through Souths Cares, the club is intent on looking after its own. Michael Maguire's players are involved heavily in health and lifestyle programs at predominantly indigenous schools in the area. Where they are really making waves, though, is in their school-to-work transition scheme, which has an indigenous focus at five local high schools.
John Hutchinson, the general manager of Souths Cares, has signed a memorandum of understanding with the University of Sydney, opening up alternative entry pathways for students who once thought a prestigious university place was as remote as playing in an NRL grand final. ''For these kids, it's been like a light going on,'' Hutchinson says.
Jenny Wilson, a year 10 transition adviser at South Sydney High School, says Souths Cares assistance in getting indigenous students into traineeships, apprenticeships, jobs or higher education, is a winner. ''The five students they worked with last year are all employed or in further education,'' she says.
One of the program's mentors is former Souths fullback Rhys Wesser, who says the club's premiership tilt is intensifying the connection they are building with indigenous children.
''When the club's doing well there's definitely that passion from the community in Redfern, Waterloo, Maroubra, Tempe. You see it, it's around the streets, people are talking about it,'' Wesser says. ''So we just hope we get out there and win this weekend.''