“We take people out to Wandella and Yowrie and we show people where the Salway family died and people just can’t believe it,” Allen said.
“It’s an open paddock. It’s just so sad, the devastation at Yowrie and Wandella. It’s like someone has dropped a nuclear bomb at the place. It’s black. It’s still black.”
Allen has taken Fox Sports personalities in town for Penrith’s pre-season trial against Parramatta in Bega on Saturday out on “the tour” in the last few days. Their reaction?
“We took Andrew Voss out there [Thursday] night and he was crying,” Allen said.
“We took Yvonne Sampson, Hannah Hollis and Danny Buderus out [Friday] morning and they couldn’t believe what they were seeing.
“When you go out there and see what’s actually happened, you can’t describe in words the devastation. As I said, it’s like a nuclear bomb has been dropped on the place. It’s a nuclear zone. It’s just black.
“There’s nothing there. There’s nothing on the ground. There are no animals, no birds, it’s just sticks.
“Without being hyperbolic, until you see it, it’s just hard to describe.”
And that is why the Eels and Panthers are in the Bega district this week, helping out wherever they can.
Eels players were out helping with fencing on Thursday. Both teams have been eating at local cafes and pubs trying to pump as much money back into the economy as possible.
The NRL estimate just shy of $5 million has been pumped back into the economy which lost an estimated $150m in tourism over the summer.
“These guys can’t replace lives obviously but what they have done is come down here and lifted spirits and given people a sense that there are people behind them and they are thinking of them in the best way they can,” Allen said.
“That’s really important, that people know they’re not alone. The footy clubs have been fantastic.”
Bega Valley Shire Council Mayor Kristy McBain couldn’t be more thankful to have NRL clubs in town.
“We’ve had NRL players on people’s farms who have been completely burnt out, just giving a hand with fencing,” she said.
“We’re talking about tens of thousands of kilometres of fencing lost within the Bega valley alone. Every little bit actually makes a huge difference to people.
“Going into schools has been a really fabulous thing. Kids haven’t really had much of a school holiday or summer break.
“It’s great to get those people into an area and they stick out like sore thumbs around here and that’s what we need. We need people to see that people are coming together and they care and they are still coming into our communities and they’re doing so because they want to help.
“Thank you doesn’t do justice for what they’re doing for our community, and our mindset.”
Regional officials hope to convince the Raiders to make one of their pre-season trials an annual event.
“We’ve had some discussions already with Canberra Raiders about making the trial match a regular occurrence every year and the Raiders have been supportive and written letters of support for our application to upgrade the Bega Recreational Ground itself,” McBain said.
“We’re really keen to attract more NRL matches and hopefully get the AFL and A-League on board as well and see what we can actually attract because it’s these events that will attract people that aren’t out usual visitors and that will make a huge difference for us.”
Sam is a sports reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.