When Tingha local and Parramatta Eels star Bevan French was quizzed on what it was like coming back to where it all began, there was an obvious change in his demeanour.
With a smile, gone were the stock standard media responses and in place of them was an obvious fondness for his hometown.
The Eels brought their pre-season training camp to Armidale this week and French spoke to local media on Wednesday.
“I know the people I have seen so far, they have got a lot out of just seeing a lot of the other boys in our team.
“It means a lot coming back to small towns like this, especially for the younger kids as well.”
French moved to Sydney to sign with the Eels in 2013.
He played in their under 20’s team before making his NRL debut against the Knights in 2016.
He has gone on to play 47 top grade matches and scored 35 tries.
French said he heads back home from the city as much as he can.
“As much as I can, rep weekends, byes during the year I will get home,” he said.
“In the off-season I spent a few weeks back there as well, Christmas is coming up so a fair bit of time which is good.
“Parra has been pretty cool with that, pretty lenient with me getting home and bringing the family down and things like that so it has been good.”
He still tries to keep in touch with the local rugby league competition and praised the success of Tingha’s juniors.
“Whenever I get back there I get around and try to see everyone as much as possible, get out to a few games, do a bit of mentoring and things like that,” French said.
“It means a lot to them, especially in Tingha.
“There is only 900 people or so.
“I think they had to pull out of Group 19 with the A grade, or leaning towards that, and things like that so the great success coming through the younger ranks it is only positive news for us.”
As for the training camp, French said it was good to get away from the city for a while.
“The camp is about us coming here and getting in a bit of team bonding,” he said.
“I think we fell away from it a bit last season and coming up here, it is not just about bonding, it is about getting fit and getting our bodies right and doing the hard work down here.
“Away from the field we have been trying to get to know each other a bit better and things like that.
“We have had a bit of a rough season and getting away from everything.
“We wanted to get down here, get some hard work in and get ready for next year and move away from all the things that are going on with Parra.”