Group Seven operations manager Ashton Sims believes he has unique opportunity to re-engage with the next generation of rugby league talent, as he plans the future of competition beyond COVID.
All nine first grade clubs have nominated for next season and Sims is also expecting a boost in lower level and junior teams.
The former NRL forward, who played for St George Illawarra, Brisbane and North Queensland, as well as at a World Cup for Fiji, believes the post-lockdown world will be fertile ground for the code.
"We've just come out of abandoned seasons at senior and junior level so this is a really exciting time to be involved," he said.
"If there's one thing I know about sport, it's a universal language of trust, respect, discipline and camaraderie and we've missed some of that without being able to play. We really want to get people engaged in footy again, it's the heartbeat of our area.
"We've been in constant communication with all our clubs, it's absolutely brilliant to see the work they've done, from Milton-Ulladulla, Berry-Shoalhaven Heads, right up to the Moss Vale region and it's really pleasing to see all the teams nominated."
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At 36, Sims made his NRL debut in 2003 for the Dragons, before moving to the Broncos and Cowboys, then on to Warrington in the Super League and Toronto Wolfpack, where he retired two years ago.
Now he's back in his own bacyard, working in Kiama, where he went to high school after growing up in Gerringong.
Sims has been working in the mental health advocacy space since hanging up the boots and said it remains a top priority for him.
"We'll be continuing and developing our mental health strategy with our senior and 13 to 16-year-old grades," Sims said.
"We want to have that education and information available to them, so they can better manage their own mental health, but also identify any issue they might have around them and how to have that conversation."