Rugby League


Tongue takes detainees under his wing

Alan Tongue's footballing legacy was squeezing every drop of talent out of himself, and demanding and inspiring the same from his teammates.

And the former Raiders skipper is using that mantra to help the youngsters at Bimberi Youth Justice Centre to make the most of the cards they've been dealt.

The 32-year-old put the teenagers he has taken under his wing through a searching physical test as part of his ''Dream Believe Achieve'' program.

But it's anything but a boot camp. The six-week course includes a mentoring component and helps them overcome trust issues, build teamwork and achieve their dreams through hard work.

Before and after each training session, the players hang off Tongue's every word, with motivational phrases including ''How Bad Do You Want It?'', and ''Respect Each Other'' on the whiteboard.

''When I put this program together with the training side of it, people ask if it's a boot camp, it's nothing like a boot camp,'' Tongue said.


''It's not me talking down to anyone, I come in and give them as much respect as I can, and in return they've given me heaps of respect.

''The idea is creating adversity on the training paddock, people learn a lot of the lessons in life through adversity and hardships.

''The guys have really opened up, the trust they've shown me has grown from week to week. Today they jumped up in front of the whole group and talked about their dreams, the people they're going to surround themselves with and things they need to stop in their lives.''

On Tuesday, he looked at one of the troubled youths and said, ''My name's Alan Tongue, and my dream is to create a program that gives purpose to young people's lives.''

Tongue has harboured aspirations of launching a program of this nature for some time.

Attending the NRL's rookie camp the past two seasons as an ambassador convinced him every youth should be given the same opportunity.

''Going to those rookie camps sowed a big seed, I think. Every kid should have the opportunity to go through a weekend like that,'' Tongue said.

''I mightn't have been the most talented [player] but I had great purpose, I knew what I wanted to do and I knew where I was heading.

''It's important they establish that dream. It's in their mind, but once they write it down on a piece of paper it's their goal now.''

A handful of past and present Raiders have visited the youth centre, and Tongue believes it is an invaluable learning tool for the players.

''You only have to talk to any of the players and they said they'd love to help out. For some of the individuals in here I thought it would be a worthwhile experience.''