SNAKE'S ALIVE, MAL'S NO WIMP!
News Source: Sunshine Coast Daily, page 21, July 23 2005
Mal Meninga may have come up against a few tough customers in his professional football career; but he had a healthy respect for the boa constrictor wrapped around his neck yesterday.
The Australian rugby league legend was special guest at Australia Zoo, spending time with 65 students from local schools.
The youngsters were being rewarded with a day of fun, being treated to an animal extravaganza, meeting Mr Meninga, Federal Member for Logan Mal Brough and crocodile hunter Steve Irwin.
The primary students are all participants of the Primary After School Sports program, developed by Mr Meninga and business partner Brenden Jones and funded by the Australian Government to the tune of $150,000.
The program aims to help at risk children remain motivated and participate more fully in their schooling, as well as understand their rights and responsibilities as part of the wider community.
But Mr Meninga said it was about more than playing sports after the 3pm school bell rang.
He said the program kept the students active after school, rather than leaving them to their own devices.
"We talk about health and nutrition and behaviour and use sport as a vehicle to do that," he said.
Local member Mal Brough, who had heard of the success of the PASS program, approached Mal Meninga about delivering the program at schools in the Longman electorate.
He said teachers and parents had already told him the students were paying more attention in school and behaviour had improved.
"At this stage it looks like we are hitting our goals," Mr Brough said. As for the kids, they were in awe of seeing Steve Irwin up close and personal, but thought he looked different in real life.
When the crocodile hunter asked if he looked better in person than he did on the big screen, there was a resounding "yes", but no so when he asked if he was "skinnier".
A few brave souls answered in the negative before regaling him with questions about the animals.