There are two games of football to be won, but according to Brad Beetson, the real measure of the Queensland Murri Under 15s team tour to Fiji is how the young Indigenous boys change as people.
Coached by former NRL stars Sid Domic and Leo Dynevor, the team fly out of Brisbane tomorrow (Wednesday) morning for a two-match tour of Fiji where they will also visit local villages and help conduct coaching clinics for young kids.
It is the off-field activities that have had the greatest impact on the young men on previous tours of Papua New Guinea and New Zealand having been drawn from all corners of Queensland after participating in the annual Murri carnival.
Beetson, son of the legendary Arthur Beetson, has seen first-hand the development of previous members of the Murri 15s squads and is excited to share the experience with a new group of boys this week.
“It's all about lessons in leadership and taking responsibility for your actions and we keep re-emphasising that the whole time we are here,” Beetson told NRL.com.
“We went to Cherbourg for two days to talk about culture and responsibility to family and responsibility to yourself and you can see them grow as people with that confidence.
“David Fauid is now at the Broncos but when he first came to us he wouldn't say anything. Now he is a young, confident Indigenous man and it fills you with a lot of pride to see the change in them.”
Jackson Weir was a young rugby league player of promise when he toured Papua New Guinea in 2012 and has just recently graduated from Ipswich Grammar with distinction and is set to study law at the University of Southern Queensland.
He said that first tour of Papua New Guinea taught him that every opportunity should be grabbed with both hands.
“First time going to Papua New Guinea, that changed my life,” said Jackson, who is travelling with the team in a mentoring capacity.
“Even flying over the land, you're looking out and seeing these houses – not even houses – that people are living in, these little tin sheds and stuff with holes in them and everything.
“Getting off the plane, they're so happy to see you, but they've got nothing; it was a real eye-opener for me and all the boys.
“It dramatically changed my life so I take every opportunity I have because I know that I'm very fortunate to get those where people in less fortunate areas don't get anything like I've had, so I'm going to take it and hopefully give back one day too.
“Going to the villages, seeing the kids playing footy with water bottles and rubbish; their toys are rubbish.
“Seeing the poverty over there really changed my outlook on life when I got back to Australia to see how fortunate I really am. So from then on every opportunity I was given I took with both hands.”
Roosters star Blake Ferguson visited the boys in camp prior to their departure and also spoke on the opportunities being laid out in front of them, opening up on the troubles he has experienced on his journey thus far.
“We'd been doing things for two days and they hadn't asked any questions and then one young bloke started asking a question and then you couldn't stop them," Beetson said of Ferguson's impromptu Q&A session.
“The next half hour they were all asking questions and for the two days prior no one had said anything.
“A couple of them asked him why he went off the rails and that's when he started actually opening up a bit more himself, when the kids started asking questions.
“Blake talked a bit about wasted opportunities and he told them to put themselves first and have goal-setting and don't let anyone interfere with where you want to get to.
“Don't waste it because it's a limited opportunity and not many people make it.”
Queensland Murri Under 15 side: Simon Asela (East Coast Sharks), McKenzie Baker (Townsville Walkabouts), Brent Barnes (Murri United), Declan Beetson (Toowoomba Warriors), Jeremiah Bowen (Townsville Walkabouts), Jesse Braslin (Murri United), Dean Bunce (Townsville Walkabouts), Brayden Campbell (Waa’Widjee’Mah Warriors), Quayden Collins-Cobbo (Cherbourg Hornets), Koby Cubby (Toowoomba Warriors), David Fifita (Waa’Widjee’Mah Warriors), Edwin Foster (Mackay Thunder), Carlos Knox (East Coast Sharks), Jacob Makinen (Sunshine Coast Bunya), Treavon McGinness (Waa’Widjee’Mah Warriors), Malachi Retchford (Kalkadoon Blacks), Daniel Shannon (Murri United), Tyrone Spratt (Townsville Walkabouts), Dario Takitaki (Murri United), Tiko Twist (Waa’Widjee’Mah Warriors).
This first appeared on NRL.com as: Murri juniors on life-changing journey