Albany Sea Dragons and NRL WA unite ahead of regional trip

NRL WA Chief Executive John Sackson (left) with Albany Sea Dragons’ Lee Mullen (centre) and NRL WA Operations Manager Tony Crowe (right)
Credit: Edward Nixon

Albany Sea Dragons Media Coordinator Lee Mullen was in Perth this past week to meet up with NRL WA Chief Executive John Sackson and Operations Manager Tony Crowe to discuss the exciting future of Western Australia’s newest rugby league club.

Having been founded last year, the Sea Dragons will be given their first chance to grow rugby league in Southern WA when Crowe, NRL Touch Football WA State Manager Warren Smiles and former NRL players Clinton Toopi and Cory Paterson head down to Albany to promote the NRL’s ‘State of Mind’ and ‘Voice against Violence’ programs on Monday, April 29.

“For those guys to put aside their time to help establish the code down there and it’s great to have well-known names to back that,” Mullen said.

“To get such support is amazing – we welcome the guys coming down and hopefully, we’ll have some great results.

“We’re trying to make a club with a professional attitude even at the grassroots.”

Mullen says he takes inspiration from the success of the Ellenbrook Rabbitohs as a newly-formed club.

“We’re so encouraged by Ellenbrook Rabbitohs,” Mullen said.

“Their model is something we’re closely looking at and following.

“If we can emulate that in Albany and have the success they have over four years then we’d be over the moon.”

The State of Mind team will also be heading to the Dalyellup Rhinos as part of a two-day trip to spread the message of rugby league and mental health in regional WA.

Toopi, a former New Zealand international has been working with the NRL as a Community Program Deliverer since 2018 and says the trip will provide both Albany and Dalyellup with valuable education about mental health and violence against women and children.

“What we’re doing as a game is giving the clubs the tools to deal with (mental health and violence),” Toopi said.

The 13-year NRL veteran says the Sea Dragons can take inspiration from the Willagee Bears, who became the first WA club to complete the NRL’s State of Mind program last year.

“Willagee have gone that extra mile to really build a strong foundation in their community and they’ve really gone another step and linked in other support services outside of mental health which is an amazing accomplishment for the club, ” Toopi said.

“Because they (Albany) are so new, they’ve got every opportunity to succeed in this space.”

Toopi also believes former South Perth Lions junior, Paterson will be able to bring a lot to the table.

“I know this will be his first induction into the State of Mind,” Toopi said. He’s a passionate man, a local man to get involved in the community again.”

“As past players, we integrate our stories – some of the good and the bad. We’ve learnt along the way to help us cope better (with mental health).”

From all of us here at NRL WA, we would like to wish both the Albany Sea Dragons and the Dalyellup Rhinos the best of luck with next week’s educational trip.