Over the last five days a team representing Outback Queensland have travelled to the Torres Straits to complete a development tour and represent the Outback in a game on Thursday Island against Northern United (a team made of players from the Torres Strait Islands, Northern Peninsula and Palm Island).
On the field, the Outback ran out winners by two points in a highly entertaining contest that went right to the wire. However, this tour was more than a game of football.
The players engaged with many Island communities in the Straits and conducted clinics alongside NRL Development in local schools. They shared gifts with the traditional land owners and were treated with a post-match function that included traditional cuisine.
Some of the players share their thoughts and memories below.
“To see the joy on the kids’ faces is what makes it all worthwhile. It definitely makes me proud to wear the Outback jersey. Until you get here you don’t appreciate how remote some of the Islands are. There is a local team tomorrow that will arrive in tinnies (boat) and need three tanks of fuel.” - John Turlan (Blackall)
“Anybody that gets the chance to come up here should jump at it. The response we got in the schools was incredible. We are not NRL stars, we are just bush footy players but when you saw the joy in the kids’ faces it didn’t worry them who we were. They were just happy to be out playing the game and seeing kids like that makes you appreciate the opportunities the game can give you. Hopefully we can put a good spectacle on tomorrow.” - Roger Batt (Longreach)
“It is a great thing to be a part of. I got the chance to give out a jersey from my junior club in Mt Isa. I presented it to a young girl who was in my group. She was a bit shy but by the end of the session she was giving me cheek." - Anton Saltmere (Mt Isa)
“I have never seen kids with some much energy. I did not realise the impact the NRL has on the kids up here, they love it……Not only is the landscape beautiful but the people are as well. Our bus driver had only been driving us around for 20 minutes and he had already offered up his place for us all to stay at if we ever came back to the island.” - Baden Russell (Blackall)
“It was a tough game for a fullback with the strong winds blowing off the ocean but I was glad I could play pretty well and do a job for the boys who dug deep to hold on at the end…....Sport has given me a lot of great opportunities and this is right up there. It was another experience of a life time that I won’t forget.” - Michael Purcell (Charleville)
Note: Michael was the unofficial Man of the Match after scoring three tries. He was also previously part of Robert de Castella’s Marathon Project and competed in the New York Marathon.
“It has been an unbelievable trip, it is a beautiful place with such welcoming people……I have been fortunate enough to travel with Australian university side and tried South African delicacies on a tour. I think turtle and dugong are on the menu for tonight so I can’t wait to try that.” - Brenton Stonier (Mt Isa)
The full touring list from Outback Queensland:
Michael Purcell (Charleville), Thomas Krosch (Mt Isa), Cody Saltmere (Mt Isa), Braden Russell (Blackall), Bronson Smith (Mt Isa), Anton Saltmere (Mt Isa), Jason Wilmott (Stanthorpe), John Turlan (Blackall), Brenton Stonier (Mt Isa), Corey Carlson (Mt Isa), Zac Downey (Roma), Donald Simmons (Mt Isa), Trent Hoad (Ilfracombe), Roger Batt (Longreach), Thomas Elliot (Longreach), Jack Kennedy (Mitchell), Craig Logan (Doomagee), John Trindall (Killarney)
Coach: Dave Kerrigan (Barcaldine)
Manager: Chris Waters (Cloncurry)
Asst Coach: Nigel Steedman (Charleville)
FAO: Laurie Ferguson (Brighton)