The Far North Queensland township of Georgetown (population 280) 412km west of Cairns hosted their first ever Rugby League games on the weekend of September 19-20.
The town was abuzz with an estimated attendance of 480 at Gregg Bethel Memorial Oval for an afternoon of community activities with an Under 12 Etheridge Brumbies v Normanton Stingers game kicking off the events.
A mixed LeagueTag game followed and as the setting sun set a stunning backdrop, the local team the Etheridge Boars took the field to play the inaugural opens game at the facility against the Mornington Island Raiders.
The game was played in great spirit with the home team delighting the crowd with a 30-20 victory over the visitors.
The Mornington Island Raiders team’s travel itinerary was daunting, with the team travelling eight hours by sea and a further 16 hours by road in total for the opportunity to play.
The Community event was made possible through State Government Drought Relief funding with entertainment for all ages including the perennial favourites, the jumping castle and slide, fairy floss and fireworks to round off the evening’s entertainment.
For a Mornington Island perspective of the carnival – read below:
Mornington Island Raiders v Etheridge Boars
By Sean Durant
The Mornington Island Raiders last played a game six months ago in Normanton, where they made a strong return to rugby league.
It was a respectful loss to Mid West powerhouse, Normanton Stingers. Since then, the team continued to train with next to no resources besides five second-hand footballs and some markers.
All the players committed to getting to training with no transport, and the team had very little support in the form of sponsorship. The jerseys were provided by Queensland Health in a project where all the players completed a health check. In partnership with QRL, all players and officials were now registered. The Raiders were determined to make it to Georgetown, because it is not just a game to them, it means so much more.
In Normanton, they promised each other they will follow their hopes and dreams and have no excuses when representing their community in the sport they love.
We have a phrase we use in the Raiders when things get tough.
“We swim against the current.”
This saying resonates with the young men, and they all agreed that they must put in their best performance for their families back home.
The Mornington Island Raiders rugby league team arrived in Georgetown at 1am the morning of the game. The team left at 12.20pm the previous day; delayed after having to wait for the tide to come in so they could make it through the mouth of the Albert River, on route to Burketown.
From Burketown, the team spent eight hours on the bus travelling the final 544km by road (some parts unsealed) to finally get to Georgetown.
The team’s accommodation was at the Georgetown Rodeo grounds, with the players having a mat on the ground of the undercover area.
The oval at Georgetown looked fantastic. The game kicked off just as the oppressive daytime heat subsided and a cool breeze entered the arena, just as the sun fell below the horizon. The residents of the region supported the game with a healthy crowd creating a wonderful atmosphere for the first rugby league game to be played in the town in decades.
The Etheridge Boars capitalised on some early mistakes from the over enthusiastic Raiders, to lead 8-0. It was quite apparent their larger opponents had a simple, but effective game plan to run through the middle of the young Raiders.
The Raiders went in to the game with one of the smallest forward packs on offer and it showed in the early stages. However, the Raiders had the speed advantage and Andre Roughsey ran a hard unders line and went through the available gap to score. Frank-John Amini converted to take the score to 8-6 at quarter time.
An entertaining second quarter saw a try and conversion to each team. Both teams will rue missed opportunities to convert pressure into points on a number of occasions. The Raiders showed in patches they had learnt from their experience in Normanton, and when they complete sets and have an effective kick chase, they could rival any side in country football. Halftime 14-10 to Etheridge Boars.
The high intensity match continued to see- saw in the third quarter, the Raiders defended bravely, but couldn't hold out the bustling Boars, after being wasteful with the football. 20-16.
The final quarter was arguably the most entertaining by both sides. The Raiders looking to chase points, made one mistake too many and the Boars scored three quick tries to look to have the match sealed. However, thankfully for the Raiders coach, the team finally clicked onto what they had been training for so long and Watson Roughsey scored a classic try of a Frank-John Amini break from a set move.
Then in the next set, Karl Roughsey finished off a team try (that included a chip and chase from their own half) with a determined effort to slam the ball over the line. Time ran out with the Etheridge Boars coming out Winners 32-22. A brave effort from the team with everyone contributing to a solid performance in some way.
Special mentions go to inspirational captain Chicko Toby, who never stopped running and tackling in a vintage performance trying to lift his team. Bryson Jingles, the small lock forward with the big heart, made many covering tackles around the legs, and punched many holes in the Boars defence.
Frank- John Amini was inspiring from dummy half, Brett Hills excelled with his guidance and short kicking game in his first game at halfback. Kenneth Roughsey, Anthony Loogatha and young gun Michael Rosser provided spark off the bench. The list could go on, but the community should be so proud of their Rugby League team.
This wasn’t the best side from the island, but they were the most committed, and the coach could not be more proud of these strong young men.
After the game team presented some Boomerangs made by local artist John Williams to the Etheridge Shire Council, who kindly donated significant funding to get us to the game and were so accommodating of us during our stay. Thank you to Dave Munro for coordinating such a great event.
At the after match function, the Raiders put on an impromptu Mornington Island dance performance which had the local crowd mesmerised and was the icing on the cake on what was a special evening of sport and culture.
Thank you to Maxwell Gabori (team manager), Bevan Owens and Normanton Stingers, Paul Linden and the VMR, Carl Evans, Wrangler and Brenton in Burketown, Uncle Alfred in Normanton, and our connections in Croydon, the development team and officials from QRL and NRL, MMG and the communities of Mornington Island and Georgetown in what was a monumental team effort to get a game of footy.
Rugby league is a passion on Mornington Island, and it is certain that it has the ability to have a broader positive impact on community life beyond the white lines and goalposts.