The family of sporting freaks tutored by legends
When former South Sydney and Roosters grade player Troy Rugless wanted to teach resilience and sacrifice to his two talented sporting sons, he turned to Adam Goodes and Andrew Johns.
The superstars of two football codes - "immortals in their respective sports" - have experienced a lot off the field and come out the other side, Rugless told The Saturday Telegraph.
Rugless's connections to both men led to a skills session - prior to the COVID-19 lockdown - for his boys in Bronte in Sydney's eastern suburbs.
"They are the perfect people to teach my sons about the sacrifices, resilience and the realities of being an athlete," said Rugless, who also played professional rugby league in the UK.
His eldest boy, Kobe, 18, is a highly rated hooker who plays under 20s for the Sydney Roosters. He has been in the Roosters' system since he was 14 and has represented NSW under 16s and Australia at Oztag.
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He also won two Australian boxing titles - his first one after just five bouts - and was part of a six-man squad projected to compete at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics before opting to concentrate on league.
Younger brother Zane, a versatile outside back, is rated by Storm skipper Cameron Smith's manager George Mimis as one of the best 14-year-olds he has seen. He played up a year in the Sydney Roosters' Harold Matthews (under 16s) and has represented NSW in Oztag.
"We are indigenous and as a role model I couldn't ask for anyone better than Adam," Rugless said.
"He is an amazing human being and his kicking skills have been very useful.
"Joey also did some skills with the boys and they loved it."
Rugless first met an 18-year-old Goodes on a community trip to regional NSW during his time at South Sydney. Goodes spent a week in the bush talking to schoolkids about the benefits of hard work to succeed at the top level.
Rugless was impressed by the teen's maturity - and decades on, he insists nothing has altered.
"Adam hasn't changed at all," he said about Goodes, who won two AFL premierships with the Sydney Swans and two Brownlow Medals as the game's best player.
Goodes also endured appalling racism through his 17-year career with the Swans and called it out in an acclaimed documentary last year entitled The Final Quarter.
"I really respect him," Rugless said. "He is a great role model, especially for indigenous kids.
"He is an Australian of the Year, a successful businessman, but he is such a humble person."
Rugless has kept in contact with Johns since meeting him during his own his playing career.
They became close in 2010 when the former Newcastle Knights and NSW halfback was embroiled in a racism row.
Timana Tahu left a NSW Origin camp in protest at Johns, working as an assistant coach for the Blues, making a racist slur against Queensland's indigenous centre Greg Inglis during a team session.
Despite the controversy, Rugless maintained he knew a different Joey. It's why he invited Johns to speak to his A-grade footy side at La Perouse, where he was coaching.
"The situation wasn't good, but I knew Joey and I knew that wasn't him," he said.
"Joey apologised for what happened. People make mistakes and you get on with it.
"It is about recognising what happened, owning up and learning from it.
"I think my boys can also learn a lot from that."
The Rugless brothers haven't had another training session with Goodes and Johns due to the coronavirus restrictions, but they are planning to meet up again.
"Absolutely, Adam and Joey are open to helping the boys at any time. The boys are very blessed to have two legends helping them out like that."
Originally published as The family of sporting freaks tutored by legends