Gold Coast Titans star and proud Wiradjuri man Tyrone Peachey is giving back to his hometown of Wellington with new initiative, the Peach Project.
Wellington, on Wiradjuri Country in central west NSW, is grieving after a string of recent tragedies, including the death of two young Aboriginal boys in a car crash and the fatal stabbing of a 24-year-old man.
Coming from the close-knit Aboriginal community of Wellington, Peachey wanted to give back and support his hometown.
“Things haven’t been going to well back there, there have been some bad things happening recently,” Peachey told NIT.
“With everything that has been happening, kids that are in trouble, they’ve just grown up around that stuff. They don’t know nothing better or nothing worse, that’s just the way it is there.”
Peachey left Wellington at 10-years-old, moving to Cronulla.
He had a close relationship with his Uncle Dave Peachey, who played for Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks and was the 1999 Dally M winner for Fullback of the Year.
Peachey remembers watching his Uncle play the 1999 grand final against the St George Dragons, a moment that no doubt put him on the path of NRL success.
“My parents wanted me to get out of Wellington, at the time there was a lot of ice coming through and a lot of people got stuck into that lifestyle,” he said.
“We ended up moving to Cronulla, I got to be around Uncle Dave and I was good from there.
“I have always loved footy … I’ve grown up around it my entire life, to move to Cronulla and see the respect he had around the game and how much our family looked up to him, it guided me in that direction.”
Peachey has established the Peach Project, which works to enable young Wellington kids experience life outside of the town.
“I can sort of resonate with how their family feels growing up … I know for me, being in a football world, it is my only chance to give back,” said Peachey.
“I have been trying to get some good-behaved kids to come up to the Gold Coast, experience a game, show them the theme parks, the beach — all the good things in life that is beyond what they know.
“There are different lifestyles out there, and that they don’t always have to live in the same place. They can travel the world; they can do anything.
“I want to open their eyes and help guide them in the right direction.”
Coming from a small town, Peachey understands it can be hard to visualise a life that you can’t see.
“I know a lot of families back there that are too scared to move away because they don’t know anyone, or they don’t know any better. Because I’ve experienced both lifestyles, I can kind of see the view on the other side,” he said.
“For me, moving me to Cronulla young was the best thing my parents did for me, I met my wife there, I have beautiful children. I don’t think I’ll ever move away.
“It’s not just about getting the kids to see the game or the theme parks, I want to show them that nothing is given to you. You do have to work hard for what you want.”
Football is a big part of life for the Aboriginal communities in central west NSW with many being home to former and current NRL greats.
Both Peachey and Penrith Panthers star Brent Naden come from Wellington, and 2020 Dally M winner Jack Wighton calls Orange home.
“I know how much footy is loved back there, everything I do there are little kids out there that are looking up to me,” said Peachey.
“For some kids, footy is their only way out. If I can show them, and guide them to work hard, do the right thing in life then that’s perfect for me.”
“At times you don’t realise how much these kids do look up to you, I learn that as I grow now.
“I’m not perfect, I’ve made mistakes, but I am working to be a better person and if those kids see that — that’s only going to get them doing the same.”
Despite finding a forever home on the shores of Cronulla, Peachey will always wear his home colours at the Koori Knockout.
“I have a lot of family that live there, my parents are moving back and my nan lives there as well. I try and get back for every Knockout,” he said.
“Anytime I can get back and spend time with the family is important.”
By Rachael Knowles