Roosters Premiership-winning centre Shannon Hegarty is thrilled to see his former Club take their Round 9 match to his hometown this week in Rugby League-mad Mackay.
Hegarty enjoyed six successful seasons in Bondi during the formative years of his NRL career, which saw him play in four Grand Finals - including the 2002 Premiership where he scored the opening try - and make his State and International debut in his 109 games at the Club.
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After celebrating the 20th Anniversary of the 2002 triumph just a few weeks ago, Hegarty is now celebrating another Club milestone with his beloved Roosters taking the field at BB Print Stadium in Mackay.
The hard-running centre reminisced on his childhood growing up in the sleepy country town, which ironically saw him don the Red, White and Blue years before he arrived in Bondi in the late 1990s.
“I was there from birth until I was seventeen which is when I left, so my whole childhood was up there,” Hegarty reminisced.
“I was always going down to the beach or to the creek to fish and was pretty much hanging with my mates and kicking the footy around all the time.
“I love the Red, White and Blue and funnily enough my junior club wore the same jersey, so even before I was a Rooster, those were my colours.
“It was a pretty strong competition, the team I played in dominated there for quite a few years from under 10s and went six years undefeated. I remember we didn’t even play with boots or shoes until the age of ten or twelve.
I love the Red, White and Blue and funnily enough my junior club wore the same jersey, so even before I was a Rooster, those were my colours.Shannon Hegarty Sydney Rooster #983
“I played one year of seniors which was under 17s at the time and headed down to Sydney after that.
“When I heard the Club was coming up this week, it made me look back and go down memory lane and reminisce on those good times that I had.
“It’s a beautiful area and a beautiful part of the country.”
The Rugby League stronghold hosted a number of NRL matches in 2021 as the competition was forced to relocate to Queensland, with the Tricolours buoyed by the enthusiastic crowd which saw them pile on plenty of points and put on a show for the locals.
Hegarty predicts that the community will come out in force once again to see the Roosters and Titans battle it out on Saturday night in another boost to a rural Rugby League heartland.
“I think this week will be massive," he said.
"When the Club played there last year, my friends that still live there were absolutely hyped about it. There are a lot of Roosters fans around as well and whenever I hear about it, it’s always a really big deal.
“The Roosters are my number one team and it’s where I had a lot of success in my career and made a lot of long-term friends. It makes me proud to see them in my hometown.
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“Some of my favourite memories were going to the games and watching the local heroes running around and dreaming of being like that one day. We’d jump over the fence and onto the field at halftime to kick the ball around with mates and stuff like that – it’s definitely got a strong footy culture.
“When we'd go up there in my playing days, everyone would be really excited to meet you personally and have a bit of a yarn. It gives you a chance to connect with the locals and for you to get a bit of the energy, so for me to go up there, it was a very big deal.
“It definitely is a Rugby League town.”
2002 Premiers | 20th Anniversary Part 1
Hegarty was in attendance at the Club's 20th Anniversary of the 2002 Premiership reunion in Round 6 in a special weekend for the team that broke a 27-year title drought.
After two decades away from one another - for the most part - Hegarty was appreciative not only to relive his career in the Tricolours with close friends, but to spend time with the current squad.
“It was unreal,” he said of the experience.
“I wasn’t sure what to expect because I know I just hadn’t seen so many guys for so long and having all of us in the one place. The Club did an awesome job getting it all together and having us there.
“It definitely made me realise how special that time was; not only with the fun and the success we had but the bonds we made with the team we had – that never goes away.
“We’re all getting older and there’s no guarantee in the next ten years that everyone’s going to be there, so that time becomes much more valuable when the team and the coaching staff are all there together.
“That’s something that I picked up on and it makes me appreciate it so much more.
“It was also great to watch the current team play at the SCG, going to the Captain’s Run and interacting with the guys.
“From the glimpses I’ve seen from them this year, you look at young Sam Walker who’s awesome to watch and alongside the likes of James Tedesco and some of the older heads, there’s a good mix there.
“I think they’re a great bunch of guys, and there’s a lot of youngsters there too. There’s a little bit more seasoning to go with them, but they’re definitely on the right track.”