Throughout the season, most clubs will organise fan days or special member functions. These events give teams the chance to give back to their fans and thank them for the support. Often, fans will leave with smiles on their faces after getting some photos or autographs. These photos or stories are then plastered over social media like Twitter or Instagram to show off. Away from these special organised events however, are the extra mile players. Players who go out of their way to keep an even bigger smile on a fan's face. In an endless stream of negativity displayed by the media at times, it's beneficial to reflect on the good times that players provide. These extra mile players give fans a reason to keep watching this game and supporting teams despite performances on the field or disruptions throughout clubs.
I turned to Twitter with a plea. Tell me your extra mile stories so I can share them and shine a light on the positivity that has been alive in the game for many years. I was flooded with stories. I sat reading these stories with a smile on my face and warmth in my heart because I know how it feels to be appreciated. It's so easy as a fan to, at times, feel dejected and question your support and these extra mile players know that. They know the commitment and passion the fans feel and they want to show them that they empathise. There are so many players who - past, present or future - will leave an impact on fans away from their performances forever.
When Darcy had first come over to Parramatta from Manly he didn’t have heaps of fans because they didn't know who he was. I asked for a photo with him at our annual pre-season community festival and I guess he remembered me and was grateful. The next time I saw him was after a game and he must’ve spotted me so he went into the sheds and came back out with his match worn shorts for me. From then on, he was always so nice and generous with his time – remembering my name and asking how I was and how uni was going. One time the club was doing a telethon for players to call members and thank them and Darcy asked specifically to call me and have a chat. Even when he went back to Manly he never forgot about me - @yeahvictoriaaa_
I got the chance to meet Kalyn earlier in the year. He was fantastic. My two year old son is a Knights member like myself however wasn’t with me that night. I wanted something special for him, that wasn’t a simple autograph. I asked for a video message and Kalyn happily obliged saying "Kalyn here, I just wanted to thank you for your support. Hopefully one day I get to meet you, cheers!" with a little wave at the end. My son was so stoked to see the video! He constantly asks me to watch it (like seen in the photo) and now mentions Kalyn all the time when footy is mentioned. It was a small gesture but made such an impact. - @ArabellaZucche1
BOYD CORDNER & JAMES TEDESCO
I was at the Roosters v Cowboys game on the 4th of August with my little cousins (2, 5, 7 yo) and we had them at the fence after the game to hopefully see the players. Almost every player that walked past stopped and took a photo with them. James Tedesco even stopped and talked to them about how they are from Camden. What made it even greater was when Boyd Cordner walked straight over from his interview with Fox Sports to my 5 year old cousin and gave him a hug and footy. He even picked him up and took a photo with him and then the rest of us. It was a night that my cousin still hasn’t stopped talking about and will never forget. - @LukeP_15
Last year the Panthers put 40 on the Knights and he was the only Knights player to do a lap after the game which is hard to do at Panthers Stadium. He came to my young bloke and said “Thanks for coming, sorry we didn’t do better” - @Lobbneil
He gave us his boots! Entirely unprompted, he just said he wanted to thank us for supporting him - @HullKiwi
Back in 2012 I made a trip over from New Zealand for a Panthers game and Kevin found us after the game at the club and invited us to the post match function with the players. We were the only fans invited. Also, after his last game in New Zealand he came out of the sheds with a pair of his match worn boots with a personal message on them for me. - @NZPantherFan
I was at The Footy Show when Johnson was a guest and he posted the photo we got together on his Facebook page saying how much he appreciated the support even though we weren’t Warriors fans. At a game too, he was getting pushed onto the bus to leave so he wasn’t taking any photos but when he saw me he asked if I wanted a picture and when I said yes, he made sure we got one. I was the only fan who was able to get a photo with him that night. @Tiinaaa97
I took my grandfather to the most recent members fan day for Manly because he has been a massive fan his whole life. He hadn’t been to Brookvale in more than 10 years so I was so excited for him to be there and meet the current squad. He was so happy to be there, you could see it on his face. All the boys were so nice and welcoming when they met him. His favourite player however, was Steve Menzies who happened to be at the fan day but we hadn’t gotten around to yet. I asked an employee if Steve was still there and how we could meet him since he is my grandfather’s absolute favourite. He went and got Steve for us and he came to grandpa and spoke with him for a good 10-15 minutes about everything; the past, present and future of Manly football and players. Other fans wanted Steve’s attention but he told them to wait as he was having a conversation. He spent so much time and effort in the conversation with my grandpa and you could see on his face how happy he was. I’m so thankful he got that experience. - @missshawtieyo
In 2016 I travelled with my family to Brisbane for game 2 of State of Origin. Josh, being my favourite player, was one of the reasons I decided to make the trip however unfortunately in the lead up to the game, he was injured and ruled out. I was lucky enough to be staying in the same hotel and I managed to meet Josh and grab a photo with him (one of many because he always has the time) and tell him how disappointed I was that he wasn’t playing. The next day in the lobby Josh rocked up with a pair of his boots and signed them for me. It ended up being an unforgettable trip despite NSW losing and Josh not playing. - @court_knee97
JACK DE BELIN
One year at our last home game the players were given hats to give out to fans so Jack went out of his way to make sure he gave his to me and signed it “from your biggest fan”. He has always had time for a chat after a game and always acknowledges me when he sees my Jack Attack banner. – @Tiinaaa97
JHARAL YOW YEH
My dad and I have been Broncos members for 7 years and we sit pretty close to the sideline and Jharal always waves and says hello. This year I had my Origin jersey done with a 5 and Yow Yeh on it. I kindly asked if he would sign it for me if I brought it one game to which he said he’d love to. I missed the next game but my dad took my jersey for me. Jharal acknowledged him and said he would come back because he was busy. He stayed true to his word despite my dad’s doubts and signed the jersey. He even stopped his halftime MCing duties early to go and sign it. Every week he goes out of his way to come over and say hello and take pictures. - @kyannejane
A few years ago when Willie was at the Knights I attended a trial match in Coffs Harbour. After the match I went down to the fence hoping to snag an autograph or two. Willie was the first to approach me but instead of just signing my jersey and moving on, he stopped for a chat. He then personally took my jersey around to all of the players to make sure everyone signed it. - @MattHainesSport
These players, and so many more, are examples of why this is the greatest game on earth. Not because of the level of officiating or success of teams. The players care. They truly care about the fans who dedicate their time, money and energy to cheering them on and they want to give back. For them it may seem like an effortless act but it goes a very long way.
Don’t forget why we love this game just because it’s difficult to follow at times.