They say the future belongs to those who believe in their dreams.
Abby Catling, would love to see Central Highlands run a girls competition just like the boys.
“I wish we could have more girls receive support and development to play in the local area,” she says.
In the meantime, however Abby is pursuing her passion for the game of rugby league through as many avenues as possible and in the process inadvertently promoting the brand power that is Women’s Rugby League.
“I have started to compete in the Mackay Schoolgirls competition which is held on Tuesday afternoons.” This is no mean feat for her family, requiring either Mum or Dad driving her into Mackay from Middlemount after lunch, and not returning until 9.30 that night.
Fortunately, for Abby, mum and dad are both rugby league tragics as well. “I grew up around rugby league. I watched dad play every weekend, and fell in love with footy and soon wanted to learn how to play. Once I started playing, my mum inspired me too as she was so involved as well.”
Mum Kerrie is the Middlemount Rugby League Club treasurer and along with dad Chris, coach and manage the Middlemount Panthers ladies team.
Not only does Abby play in Mackay, but she also trains with the Under 16 Middlemount team under the guidance of coach Scott Lonergan on Wednesday and Thursday afternoons. That’s the boys by the way.
Oh and on Mondays, it’s another six hour round trip as she has been selected in the Mackay Representative Under 16 side to compete in the North Queensland Championships in June and training for that team is on Monday afternoon.
But it’s worth it according to Abby. “I love girls rugby league because it keeps developing more every year, and there are more carnivals to participate in which is really exciting as I get to play it more often.”
Apart from the Mackay Schoolgirls competition, and the North Queensland Championships, Abby will also head to Townsville in September for the Cowboys Schoolgirl Challenge, to Toowoomba in October for the Titans Schoolgirls Challenge, and then Brisbane for the Broncos Schoolgirl Challenge.
Abby is part of the Pink Panthers School girls team, coached by her parents for the past four years, and supported by the local community. “About 80% of the costs to participate in the carnivals come from sponsorship from local businesses,” she says.
“Local people really love to see kids active and playing sport. The local Middlemount Panthers Rugby League Club is also a major supporter of the trips away.”
And even though there are no girls games played regularly on the weekends, Abby remains involved in rugby league through refereeing. “I decided to start refereeing this year, sat through my course and now I’m involved on the field refereeing kids. I even get the chance to run the line for the Ladies Central Highlands A Grade competition. I love it.”
Abby’s enthusiasm for rugby league is matched only by her admiration for Renae Kunst, Australian Jillaroo. “Renae is not only involved in playing the sport, but in developing it as well,” Abby says.
Abby first met Renae at the Broncos Challenge when Renae was the Middlemount team’s coach for the day. “Because of her leadership and support of the sport, I can now play in Mackay and Townsville, and not just down south. She is a true inspiration.”
But it is her parents that deserve most credit according to Abby. “They take me everywhere I need to go to play, and dad always has good constructive criticism and encouragement when I come off the field. If mum and dad hadn’t made the Pink Panthers schoolgirls side and taken us to Brisbane and Toowoomba to compete, I would have had nowhere to play after Under 12s. I am pretty lucky!”
Abby’s dream is to do what she loves…play footy and become an Australian Jillaroo…and of course, see a Central Highlands Junior Rugby League girls competition developed. With her attitude to the sport and the burgeoning interest in women’s rugby league in the Highlands, it might be only a matter of time until all her rugby league dreams come true.