Are you sick of watching and reading stories of NRL players behaving badly? Tired of the indiscretions of a few tarnishing the reputations of many?

I am.

Unfortunately a by-product of how the media works is that negative stories generate bigger headlines than the positive ones. In fact, positive yarns are usually referred to as ‘soft’ or ‘fluff’ pieces, and they often drift to the bottom of the pile when it comes to sharing space with the sexier ‘hard’ stories.

I love telling these stories. There’s an untapped mine of what can happen behind the scenes in a year of the NRL. 18 months ago I stumbled across a unique story involving a number of footballers. I’d really like to tell you about it. Even better… I’d like to show you.

But more on that later.

Joe Galavao has recently retired from NRL after an astonishing 16 seasons playing rugby league at the elite level. But what many fans don’t realize is that the Manly forward has exceptional musical talent, along with the overwhelming desire to help young people.

So when Joe was watching a television talent contest a couple of years ago he had an epiphany. He realized there was so much untapped musical potential in Sydney’s greater west that never saw the light of day. A phone call to his pal Frank Puletua (who was working at the Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre) followed and Mindfield was born.

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Other musically talented NRL players were roped in: Dene Halatau, Sam Perrett, Junior Tia Kalifi, Junior Moors and Kevin Gordon put their hands up. Eric Grothe Jnr couldn’t wait to be involved. All that was required was some talented young musicians.

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They came in their droves to audition at the CPAC – think the voice meets NRL. The players helped with the judging and interviewed the contestants who nervously took to the stage hoping to make it through to the final.

In the end eight acts were chosen to take a year-long journey that would climax at the 2012 NRL Grand Final, where they would perform a song, written by Joe, in front of tens of thousands of fans as part of the pre-match entertainment.

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The players were a huge part of the Mindfield journey – collaborating with the performers to write and record an album of original tracks. The Juniors rapped, Sam and Dene sang, Kevin turned producer, and Joey did just about everything, while Frank oversaw the whole project with the help of CPAC and the NRL.

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This all took place during a season in which Sam switched from the Roosters to the Bulldogs, Dene was having the season of his life until injury cost him a grand final appearance, while Joey came within one game of a grand final in what would be the final full year of his professional career. Kevin and Junior TK struggled to make their way back from injuries, and Junior Moors strived to make the West Tigers NRL side, only to get to the NSW Cup Grand Final with Balmain.

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At the start of Grand Final Week, the Juniors performed tracks they wrote at the One Community Awards at Town Hall. Junior TK performed The Streets, a heartfelt and moving song he wrote about the challenges of growing up and living in western Sydney, which brought the house down. Junior M had never rapped in front of anyone before he walked on stage to perform The Greatest Game – a cracking track about rugby league. The NRL was so impressed they asked Junior M to perform the track on Grand Final day, after finishing playing his own final!

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Meanwhile Joey had somehow managed to compose a song that showcased the individual styles of all 11 performers – an incredibly challenging task. With the help of Eric, a funky track emerged with rockers, rappers, and soul singers merging to sing I Ain’t Going Back, an inspiring theme to the entire Mindfield experience.

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The amazing thing? This whole journey has been filmed, from the first audition through to the backstage scenes during the Grand Final week. The challenges faced, the hurdles overcome and the friendships formed along the way. From the advice of singer Paulini, who took part in the initial judging, to the unexpected encounters with Good Charlotte boys Joel and Benji in the corridors of ANZ Stadium. You may have seen some of the Mindfield performers singing live during the finals series, or at the Grand Final Breakfast, without realise they’d been slaving away with a bunch of players for months in the studio!

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It’s a rare thing to be able to film a long-term project such as this and it is also expensive. I’ve worked unpaid, as has my colleague Joanna Lester. We were lucky enough to be able to seconder cameraman Aaron Horton thanks to CPAC and, in part, the NRL.

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But we can’t show you this amazing story because we simply can’t go any further – we can’t finance the post-production of this documentary. So this is where I’m turning to you folks out there in cyberspace. We’re looking for a commercial sponsor to complete a documentary that celebrates music and sport in a unique way.

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We’re currently working on securing a broadcast partner and with sponsorship we can move very quickly into the post-production phase. We’re determined to get this over the line, because every time we watch the footage we’re excited about this story all over again. We want you to meet the characters because we think you’ll love them as much as we do!

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So if you’re tired of seeing the same old “bad boy” headlines and you’d like to help us showcase some of the good guys in the NRL, or if you love watching new musical talent uncovered, check out the video below and drop us a line at jammingproductions@gmail.com. You can also help by spreading the word through Facebook, twitter, or word of mouth.

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Thanks so much for taking the time to read this!

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