By Julietta Jameson
My grandparents lived on the Central Coast of NSW in a small community called Empire Bay. Their tidal waterfront home was a dream playground that I enjoyed with my brother Michael and cousins Rob, Chris and Vincent, who, like me, loved the freedom of this hidden boys’ paradise. This definitely contributed to my love of fishing, and adventure in the outdoors.
I was 14 when I was in a NSW schoolboy team that toured New Zealand, my first big trip overseas. We were billeted with families of the boys we would be playing against. Our welcome was friendly but once we got onto the field, these bigger Kiwi kids played hard. I toured three years in a row in my early teens to New Zealand. These experiences with new teammates and new friends matured me as a person. No doubt it set me on a path to play NRL football professionally.
When not escaping to Empire Bay, my other love was to head down “the valley” to visit my Nan and Pop and cousins who lived on the NSW South Coast. Having grown up roaming the hills dodging black snakes and exploring the Kangaroo River, I still have a strong connection to the valley. It had a defining influence on me.
At 20, I was contracted to play for the Leeds Rugby League Club for an off-season stint in England. I was about to learn how cold and hard a northern England winter could be. Back in 1986 all the English lads had regular jobs with rugby league the thing they did to earn a few pounds on the side. Many of my teammates worked underground. They would leave for work each day in the dark at 7am and return in the dark at 3pm – an existence that I couldn’t understand. They were a colourful bunch of hard-working middle class and they taught me many life lessons.
I was fortunate to experience Papua New Guinea in the mid-1980s. Since then I have visited this amazing country several times. The week was a memorable one, not so much for the fishing, as for the relationships we formed with these traditional people who invited us into their lives. Each afternoon on our return we would play volleyball. The fun and laughter was a highlight and the whole village would gather around to cheer their team on. We all had tears in our eyes as we departed their village at the end of the week knowing it was more than likely that we would never see each other again. Years later I was told that one of the couples named their little newborn boy ET.
ET’s Ultimate Fishing Adventure by Andrew Ettingshausen (New Holland Publishers, $49.99) is out now. See newhollandpublishers.com
Read more: http://www.traveller.com.au/the-places-that-made-me-former-nrl-player-and-tv-presenter-andrew-ettingshausen-h0bbfa#ixzz53GdhJAqW
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