Juniors demonstrate the best of rugby league

As fans, it is easy to get lost in the competitive highs of rugby league's elite competition, but often it is the memories made in the humble junior games that can create the most lasting impacts. 

Juniors take the field every week motivated by little more than the joy of making friends playing a game they love. 

Playing a team sport like rugby league can teach kids many important lessons like inclusion and sportsmanship. 

Those qualities were on full display during a recent Under 11s game between Wynnum Manly and Russell Island.

The following story was submitted by a parent whose child left Kitchener Park with a smile and an unforgettable experience; thanks to the sportsmanship and inclusive attitude of the young players on the field.

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"Hi, my name is Michael Quinn and I have had a long association with the Wynnum Manly club starting with my Dad, John (Jack) Quinn in the 1940s playing in the Waterloo Bay competition.

"My 18-year-old son Brandt is currently in the Wynnum Colts squad. On Sunday, I went to Kitchener Park to an Under 11s game between Wynnum and Russell Island, where my grandson, Drake, was playing for Russell Island.

"Being an island community, they struggle to put full teams together and often have younger players in older age groups etc. My grandson has autism and my son and his wife always look for social opportunities so they decided to enrol him in the Rugby League team.

"As the game went on, it was clear that Wynnum were a very capable team and quickly went to a good lead. Drake doesn't have much of an idea what he's meant to be doing on the field and receives constant guidance from his coach, League-safe and team-mates, often wandering around the field.

"In the second half, it appeared that the Wynnum team became aware of this and encouraged the Russell Island team to give the ball to Drake. As they did, both teams guided him on which way to run and he started running down the field.

"Instinctively, the Wynnum players made dives at him, deliberately missing as he continued down the field. As he crossed the line, again both teams said, 'Put it down', which he did.

"The look on his face was priceless as they all cheered his success. I was running the line and went in behind the goal line for the conversion. I thanked them for their kindness and heard some of them saying that it felt good to be kind.

"They then proceeded to do a similar thing for a young girl on the Russell Island team who was very timid. Again, her face was beaming as she placed the ball over the line for a try. It was a great show of sportsmanship at such a young age and made me proud of being associated with the Wynnum Manly club.

"I get to see the same sort of consideration and inclusiveness in the senior club, as all senior teams include a young man with autism (as well).

"For my grandson, he now understands the game better and left Kitchener Park a very happy boy, looking forward to next week's game. Please pass on my heartfelt thanks to the coach and members of the Under 11 team."

Watch the video from the Wynnum team talking about the game above.