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Blackall Magpies: The tiny Queensland club thriving on and off the field

There's the main drag in the small outback town of Blackall in Central West Queensland and not a hell of a lot else. But there's one thing that can't be questioned and that's the mutual support between the community and the local rugby league club.

Blackall Magpies Senior Rugby League Club pride themselves on their relationship with the local community, and it has been recognised by the NRL with the Magpies named Grassroots Club of the Year. The award is proudly supported by Apprenticeship Support Australia and makes up a part of the 2018 NRL Community Awards.

Club secretary Lisa Alexander said the game had a unique way of bringing the whole community together.

"Rugby league provides an outlet for our community to come together and reconnect," Alexander said

"It's probably the only thing that our town has left in terms of socially and sporting-wise - rugby league is it.

"We have other community events that bring people together but rugby league is special, it's like the cornerstone of these smaller communities and it's just something that brings people together like nothing else can."

National Grassroots Club of the Year Award 2018 - Blackall Magpies Senior Rugby League Club

The club is involved a number of community initiatives, such as volunteering at the Blackall Anglican Flower Show, the town's Better Than 60s day, supporting the Australian Anti-Ice Campaign, whilst also fundraising more than $20,000 every second year for a charity of their choice – this year the money was donated to a breast and prostate cancer support group in central Queensland.

NRL community program deliverer and former Canberra Raiders skipper Alan Tongue and NRL's head of government and community relations Jaymes Boland Rudder presented the award on behalf of the NRL at a community gathering that was held at Blackall Showground on Monday.

"It was a really nice surprise, we definitely didn't expect it because we just do what we do and it's something we're really passionate about," Alexander said.

"It's not just about football, it's more about community - we're always there for the people who need us and require support so our club's pretty important to the community and the community is really important to the club."

With a local population of around 1400 people, a figure that is slowly declining each year, times are getting tougher and tougher for the club.

But Lisa said the club would continue to fight to keep rugby league alive in the community.

"It's really important that it survives - it's survival out here is on pretty shaky ground but it's been like that for a number of years and we're still making sure it continues.

"We certainly need more support from the NRL to ensure that the club can continue to play and thrive.

"It's really hard at a grassroots level particularly in these remote communities to keep rugby league alive and I think that is at the core of what we do."

Some of the club's 35 registered players travel as much as a 14-hour round trip to play a game of football on the weekend.

The Magpies side broke their 30-year draught after being crowned the champions of the Central West Competition this year when they defeated the Ilfracombe Scorpions 22-8 in June.

The club was equally proud of the work the players did off the field with local kids in the community.

"Our kids don't get a lot of opportunities to participate in clinics or other opportunities that kids in metropolitan area get," Alexander said.

"We don't get a lot of opportunities to get big names out here to run clinics with our kids so our local boys run them - they go to schools and they play touch football with the kids.

"It's a great way for our kids to get to know the players and have someone to look up to I guess."

Acknowledgement of Country

Queensland Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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