Queensland Maroons legend Sam Thaiday has made a triumphant return to the rugby league field, signing on for season 2022 with the Samford Stags.
Thaiday, who made 34 appearances for the Australian Kangaroos during his career, is wearing green and gold once again, but this time for Samford’s Open Men’s Division 2 side.
Stags president Craig Urquhart said Thaiday reached out to the club at the start of the year, not just in an attempt to play footy again, but to give back to his community.
Urquhart said while many people think the club had paid Thaiday to come onboard given his stature in the game, he was actually just like any other player.
“He’s lived in Samford for eight years and wanted to just give back to the community,” Urquhart said.
“He lives really close to the local school and a lot of the kids swamp him and continually ask him to play.
“A lot of people have asked me how much we’re paying him but he’s registered like any other player and has paid his fees just like anyone else.
“Everyone in Samford is talking about rugby league now. We have a really strong soccer club here, so to hear that rugby league is being talked about so much is fantastic.”
Aside from Thaiday’s return to rugby league being of a hot topic of conversation around the area, Urquhart said the 36-year-old's desire to play again has had a positive flow-on affect in multiple ways.
Not only has his arrival brought more people to the grounds, but he has been able to mentor some of the younger players coming through the grades.
Thaiday – who is yet to play a home game – proved to be a particular hit in Samford’s Round 2 loss to Aspley, when he kicked a conversion from the sideline.
Sam Thaiday's sideline conversion
“We played Aspley a few weeks ago and there was a real carnival-like atmosphere at that game,” Urquhart said.
“Sam kicked one from the sideline and he was getting heckled but everyone was just really enjoying the day. It’s almost like having his presence there levels the crowd because everyone is excited to see Sam get the ball or make a tackle or come off the bench.
“He’s very generous with his time, very humble. It will take him 20 minutes to walk to the dressing room after the game because spectators grab him and want to take photos.
“What I like seeing as well is all the young 18, 19, 20-year-olds in the team and how he takes time out to talk to them about how they’re running or what they’re doing or how they make tackles.
“All those guys will get to say they played with Sam Thaiday. That’s pretty cool for the guys.”
Samford are kicking goals elsewhere as well.
After offering free registration for their youngest participants, the Stags now have more than 50 players who are six and under signed up, while their numbers for their under 7s teams have doubled this year.
They also had field renovations done over the summer.
After several other previous attempts were declared a washout due to poor weather in Queensland, Thaiday will officially play his first home game on Saturday, June 11, at 4pm.