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Gus O'Neill - Tamworth

Former Tamworth Pirates player turned Army soldier Sergeant Gus O'Neill has evoked a different kind of sport to help train Iraqi soldiers during his second deployment to the country.

"I talk about (soccer great) Christionaldo Ronaldo," Gus said.

"The way he'll kiss his cross, pick up some grass, sprinkle it on the ground and then take his shot.

"I get them to think about the things a soldier needs to do before taking a shot, like correct position and breathing."

As a trainer with Task Group Taji, Gus said it was important to build rapport and make the Iraqis keen to learn.

"Australians love any sport and the Iraqis love soccer," he said.

"It works pretty well and we talk about Tim Cahill a bit.

"It's about finding different ways to teach a different culture, even though it hurts me inside to be talking about something other than rugby."

Gus played for the Pirates for about three years before joining the Army in 2006, where he was able to strap on his boots again.

"In the Army we get a lot of players who don’t have a lot of experience but they'll go at it pretty hard," he said.

"That's compared to the rugby in Sydney which gets technical and the country players who tend to hit a bit harder."

After joining the Army, Gus found some rugby-style culture across the board.

"The mateship you get is similar to what you have in a rugby club just transferred into a job," he said.

"It's a great team environment and you get to travel a bit."

Gus was also deployed to Iraq in 2007 where he ran into some other Tamworth lads during a changeover period.

"Most of my mates have always been really supportive since a few Tamworth boys have joined the Army," he said.

His mother still lives in Tamworth, and Gus visited his father in the US during a recent period of leave from Iraq.

"Dad has an American sticker on his truck that says he's a military dad and his son’s overseas," Gus said.

"Dad also sent me back with a suitcase full of jerky and other treats."