A country commitment
Every three weeks the kids of Queensland's Central West travel thousands of kilometres for their footy fix but this weekend the Queensland Rugby League brings the footy to them in the annual Country Week celebration.
The state's premier competition reaches out to Barcaldine, Charleville, Ravenshoe, Mount Isa, Gympie and Moranbah this weekend, with the PNG Hunters to host Easts Tigers in Port Moresby.
It's an incredible commitment from not only the QRL but the 14 Intrust Super Cup teams taking part, yet it pales in comparison to how rugby league-lovers in remote communities commit themselves to provide games for youngsters to play in as often as possible.
At the end of June youngsters from as far afield as Doomadgee, Mount Isa and Cloncurry in the north joined with kids from Mitchell and Miles in the south to play for the Outback team at the annual Glyn Rees City-Country Cultural Exchange at Coolum.
For the 18s it was their first time at the carnival and represented their only chance to play football for the year while the Under 14s and Under 16s are also limited with how many games they get to play.
The Outback Challenge concept developed by Queensland Outback operations manager Peter Rafter has given the Under 14s a greater outlet and it is hoped that in the coming years the Under 16s will also grow to the point where each area can field a full team.
But for now each of the young footy fans are happy with whatever the small group of volunteers can provide for them, no matter how far they have to travel.
"Most of them now are putting in round trips of 1200-1400 kilometres and have two or three games over the course of the weekend," explains Central West president David Kerrigan.
"I did the trip with them recently from Longreach to Miles which is a 2000-kilometre round-trip once we pick up all the kids from Barcaldine, Winton, Longreach and Blackall.
"Those kids have travelled tens of thousands of kilometres all year just to play footy and they've never once complained. Us adults talk about that quite a bit, actually.
"They're still laughing and joking after seven or eight hours on a bus and sometimes more than that.
"Our 14s that have done all the travelling over the last couple of months, they'll have the weekend off this weekend and be able to sit back and enjoy the senior football but, to be honest, they'd probably rather be out there playing."
While players in Central West's Under 14s are guaranteed a game when they step onto the bus the same can't be said for the handful of 16s who make the trek.
Recently four Under 16s travelled 700 kilometres from Longreach to Roma with the Under 14s and were then driven a further 200 kilometres by coach Kim Williams so that they could link up and play with the Mitchell Under-16s.
Williams, Rafter and Dwayne Kangan are three of the volunteers who give up entire weekends to provide an outlet for kids who may otherwise be caught up in less productive pursuits.
"Kicking cans down the street and probably getting into a bit of strife," Kerrigan said when asked what these kids would be doing if they weren't playing rugby league.
"We're working really hard with local councils, police and health services so they get a little bit extra as well in terms of education around drugs and alcohol and cyber-bullying and it's really good to see.
"They're very well-mannered. We were lucky enough this year to have Cameron Smith's dad come in and do a bit of work with the coaches at Coolum and he was amazed, he said they were great kids."
At places such as Barcaldine, Mount Isa and Charleville this weekend it will be more than a matter of welcoming Intrust Super Cup clubs to their small communities amid a day-long celebration of rugby league.
Juniors from as young as six, women and senior teams will all share the stage with some of the country's top rugby league talent and, for once, revel in the fact that the greatest game of all has come to them.
A former editor of Big League, Tony Webeck is the Chief Queensland Correspondent for NRL.com.