The rugby league juggernaut - in the shape of the QRL van - rolled into several Outback towns to visit bush kids at their schools, leaving gifts and feeding footy enthusiasm.
Queensland Rugby League Outback operations manager Peter Rafter and NRL game development officer Rod Dahl visited Stonehenge, Jundah, Windorah, Birdsville, Bedourie and Boulia in western Queensland, where pupils travel up to 60km to get to class each day.
Only four kids each attend Stonehenge and Birdsville schools and Boulia boasts the biggest roll call by far with just 24 pupils.
The cheery kids received some sports education – for example on the importance of warming up – and enjoyed rugby league-based games.
Peter Rafter and Rod Dahl at Birdsville State School.
Nines action hits Bedourie
Rafter and Dahl gifted the schools some rugby league balls and other goodies for the little league lovers before heading to the second Bedourie Nines tournament, which kicked off last year.
This year’s event also featured two women’s teams and the $2000 winner’s cheque went to the Northern Goannas, who were playing only their second tournament after forming a couple of weeks prior.
The interest proved so great that after the first match women in the crowd signed up to play in the second.
The Northern Goannas and the Bogan Fleaettes.
Bulls, Bandits and Bogan Fleas
In the men’s, local heroes and crowd favourites the Bedourie Bogan Fleas took to the field with the Boulia Bulls and the Barcoo Bandits.
Also running around were former NRL players Clinton Toopi (Warriors, Titans, NZ) and Preston Campbell (Sharks, Panthers, Titans) who were touring the Outback with Queensland Health to raise awareness of mental health.
The victorious Boulia Bulls.
Old courtesies recalled
The players revived the traditions of running on together and shaking hands on the field before play. Quirkily, a contest of rock-paper-scissors rather than a coin-toss decided kick-off.
Unfortunately for the locals, the Bedourie team was outgunned and missed the final despite the efforts of Toopi. Last year’s winners, Barcoo, went down in the closest match of the day to the winners Boulia Bulls.
Trevor Stewart of Diamantina council played a key role preparing for this year’s Nines.
An auction after play raised money for local charities. Jerseys worn on the day by Toopi and Campbell went under the hammer as did the right to shave Mr Stewart’s head, which fetched about $900.
The Nines will be staged on the weekend of June 10 next year, and will boast record prizemoney for all teams.