A glance at the team sheets brought names such as Indee, Jamaica, Keysha, Arnika, Mookie, Deloraine and Gypsi.
The QRL Junior State Championships had a colourful and distinctly female look about it last week when it kicked off at Toowoomba Brothers.
For the first time the championships included under-14 and under-16 girls categories, meaning the number of young colts in attendance only slightly outnumbered the fillies.
And while pundits were keen to see the form of Elizabeth Thaiday – niece of Bronco Sam – it was her Northern Marlins teammate Gypsi Ball who perhaps best encapsulated the sense of occasion.
‘She is a footy tragic, a real student of the game’
Back in 2012 young Gypsi was pictured in newspapers around the state, being chaired from the field after playing her last game of under-12s footy with Sarina in the Mackay competition.
That was because, even just a few years ago, there were few options for girls to play once they hit their teenage years.
Gypsi, however, has stuck it through and is now a qualified ref as well as a spearhead of the Marlins under-16 squad.
“She is a footy tragic, a real student of the game,” says coach Tyson Muscat.
“We’ve had her playing second row, but the fact is she knows how to play every position on the field.
“Gypsi has made sure she’s stayed involved with the game over the years and people respect her refereeing ability.
“For some of the others though, if there wasn’t girls rugby league on offer to play, they would be doing nothing.”
Female player boom
Muscat said that two years ago Northern Division had 20 female players to select from in the under 16 category. This year he estimated the number of eligible players to be over 100.
The Northern team flew in players from as far afield as Thursday Island, Weipa and Mount Isa.
In a further sign of how serious the Marlins took the event, former NRL and Super League half Ben Jeffries was given the coaching duties for their under-14 girls squad in their debut.
His assistant was 2015 Dally M medallist and Australian Jillaroos playmaker Jenni-Sue Hoepper.
“The thing with the girls is there are no egos or bad habits,” says Muscat.
“With boys, you always get a handful that want to have everything their way and will push everyone until they get it.
“The girls are sponges for information and they want to learn.
“They also play very, very entertaining football.”
It was a bumper week for junior football across Queensland last week, with the Confraternity Shield – a revered tournament played among Independent secondary schools across the state – held at Rockhampton.
Story courtesy of Rugby League Week: rugbyleagueweek.com.au