Sidelined by a season-ending injury, North Queensland Toyota Cowboys second-rower Heilum Luki is using his time off the field to spread gratitude, positivity and messages on hard work and aspiration in local school communities.
In only his second week of rehab, Luki paid a special visit to Wulguru State School on Tuesday as part of the club’s Try for 5! program, rekindling memories of visits from his sporting heroes when he was in school.
The 21-year-old, who grew up in Cairns attending Woree State School and Freshwater State School, said walking through the school grounds showed him just how far he’d come and the importance of spending time with the next generation.
“I’ve still got those memories and think about it today, so it’s good for me to get back and give the same experience back to these kids at school,” he said.
"When a couple of the Cowboys visited our parades to speak to us, even that was just something big and I’ve always remembered it.
“It’s also good for my own wellbeing to give back to the community, just to step back and be grateful, because not everyone gets that same opportunity I do to play footy.”
Luki spent time with year 1 students at Wulguru, revealing hidden talents in drawing, before simply spending time catching up with students during their lunch break.
A campus tour, led by the school captains, gave Luki a lay of the land and allowed him to meet with students across all year levels at the school.
The Try for 5! program uses club ambassador and player visits to inspire and incentivise students to attend school five days a week, addressing short- and long-term impacts of students missing foundation learning in their primary years through poor school attendance.
The community program is supported by the Australian Government and Rex Airlines.
While his ACL injury suffered in Round 14 meant physical activities were off the cards for the visit, Luki was upbeat about his progress recovering from the tear.
“It’s going well, this is my second week of rehab now and I’m getting some better range of movement in my knee and feeling much stronger,” he said.
“I’m just keen to get healthy and get back into it with the boys, especially watching how well they’re going.
“I can’t wait to get back.”