Bedourie comes alive for annual Nines

The town of Bedourie and surrounding areas has a population of just 122 and is situated 1600 kilometres west of Brisbane on the edge of the Simpson Desert.

No regular rugby league is played due to its remoteness, but once a year, the town comes alive for the annual Bedourie Nines.

Players come from as far as Toowoomba, Gladstone, Rockhampton, Mount Isa and everywhere in between just to take part in this unique event, along the local team, the Bedourie Fleas.

The weekend started with a meet-and-greet at the Roadhouse on Friday night where all the players caught up with locals and other teams.

This was before a welfare and education presentation on Saturday morning from NRL Welfare and Education Manager Clinton Toopi and QRL Central Welfare and Education Manager Dave Faiumu.

The session was extremely informative and whilst being a serious subject, was also entertaining.

Clinton Toopi presenting a welfare and education session to the Bedourie Nines participants.
Clinton Toopi presenting a welfare and education session to the Bedourie Nines participants.

The carnival had a different look this year with the Central Queensland NRL Game Development staff entering a team into the Men's and Women's competitions.

Both teams had former Queensland and Test players in their ranks which made them the early favourites.

Whilst the women's team proved too strong for the Mount Isa Wanderers, winning both games, the men's team ran up against some tough opposition from the Barcoo Bandits.

They won their first game 14-6 in the preliminary stage, but it was a different proposition in the game that counted.

The Bandits came out strong and scored two tries in the first few minutes but the NRL team fought back and had the chance to lock it up with the all-important conversion kick after the siren.

Needing the conversion to take the game into extra time, the kick went wide, and the Bandits prevailed once again to take out the Nines against a team loaded with two former Test stars.

It was a great team effort by the boys from the bush who have participated every year, with players coming from Ilfracombe and Longreach to make up the side.

Although the local Bedourie Fleas didn't make the big dance, they provided an entertaining curtain-raiser to the main game against a bunch of oldies from the crowd who were joined by a couple of ring-ins.

What was supposed to just be a casual game of touch footy was far from that, with 'fair dinkum' footy right from the kick off, much to the crowd's delight.

The "experienced" locals are big, strong and tough and could put the hits on anyone, running out winners in a shortened game.

It wasn't all just about playing for the NRL Development team, led by the fearless Richard Dugdale on and off the field.

The team travelled to Bedourie from every direction, attending schools and junior rugby league clubs along the way.

The NRL Game Development team visiting Birdsville State School, enroute to Bedourie.
The NRL Game Development team visiting Birdsville State School, enroute to Bedourie.

In some of these schools, the NRL outnumbered the students with some only having three children.

These schools receive limited visits throughout the year and were more than pleased to have time outside the classroom to learn the basic skills of rugby league.

A big thank you to the NRL Game Development team for their tour, which is documented on the PlayNRL Central QLD Facebook page.

Once again, a big effort from Richard Cooley and his team for organising a sensational weekend and Doug Cooms from the Simpson Desert Oasis Roadhouse for their hospitality.

*Peter Rafter is the Queensland Outback QRL Operations Manager