There are a number of rising stars – both from the playing field and the referee realm – who have been catching people’s attention up north.
Townsville referee Makenzie Weier was recently featured in the Townsville Bulletin newspaper as she has been impressing good judges with her commitment to the profession.
The 16-year-old is part of Townsville’s NRL Emerging Education Officiating Academy.
Academy members attend special training sessions and are put on a pathway to the elite level.
The former player told the Townsville Bulletin that she drew inspiration from QRL Referees’ High Performance Unit member Belinda Sleeman, who recently made history as the first female match official to take referee an NRL team during the recent trial between the Brisbane Broncos and Wynnum Manly Seagulls.
“Seeing a female referee in a very high game with the whistle is very, very inspiring and I look up to Belinda, she is amazing,” Makenzie told the publication.
“I’ve met Belinda and she gave me so many words of encouragement and one of those was: ‘Just keep going for it because you’ll get there eventually.’ And she’s there.”
Unfortunately, Makenzie is currently injured after playing touch footy a couple of weeks ago, but will be looking to return to the field soon better than ever.
While Makenzie still has a lot of learning to do, Townsville Referee Development Officer Michael Inmam said she had been training well, which flowed through to increased confidence with her officiating during pre-season games.
"I strongly believe that a combination of Makenzie attending the WILOP (Women in League Officiating Program) in Canberra, being part of the Emerging Education Officiating Academy has aided in the development and rapid improvement," Inman said.
"Being a member of a strong association where the likes of Wyatt Raymond and Jack Ebert are members also helps a lot as Makenzie trains with them on a Tuesday and Thursday night as well."
Earlier this year – it was the turn of some rising young players in the game to shine.
QRL’s Northern Division held their Under 15 Emerging Origin camp at Brothers Leagues Club, the home of the Townsville Blackhawks; with players selected to learn from some of the best coaches in the region.
The camp held in late January was a big success, not only because it brought the players together to teach them useful tips to improve their game; but also due to the immense support from the regional Intrust Super Cup clubs.
“The camp had massive buy-in from the three Intrust Super Cup clubs in North Queensland, with all providing their Under 20 Hastings Deering Colts coaches for specific session,” QRL Northern Division manager Scott Nosworthy said.
“The Cowboys also sent Elite Pathways Coach Ben Jeffries to the camp.
“It was great to have the NRL and Intrust Super Cup clubs there to work together to get a common outcome – providing quality coaching to these young players.”
The players themselves came from across the region; from Mackay in the south to Cairns in the north, and one player was also from the Atherton Tablelands.
Queensland Maroons coach Kevin Walters also attended and not only spoke with the assembled players; he also helped guide a training session.