Weipa Raiders celebrate 10 years with footy blitz

It was all about the game of rugby league recently in the remote mining town of Weipa with the 10th anniversary and presentation night for Weipa Raiders along with Central Cape Suns Junior Rugby League grand final day.

The weekend also saw the delivery of NRL State of Mind programs in the community by former Kiwi international Clinton Toopi and former Queensland State of Origin player Willie Tonga.

Weipa Raiders player and president Karl Adams put the call out earlier in the year to see if NRL and QRL could support and promote some awareness around mental health problems in the community and to combine it with a blitz of rugby league activities.

Adams said it was great to have the support from QRL Northern wellbeing manager Rob Hall, NRL Communities staff member Neesha Eckersley, as well as ambassadors Tonga and Toopi in the Weipa area to address the stigma surrounding mental health.

NRL State of Mind program ambassadors Clinton Toopi and Willie Tonga held sessions in the Weipa community to promote awareness around mental health problems.
NRL State of Mind program ambassadors Clinton Toopi and Willie Tonga held sessions in the Weipa community to promote awareness around mental health problems.

"In the first few months of this year alone, Weipa had five to six deaths from suicide, so it is definitely something that needs to be addressed which is why I put the call out and they were keen to come up and do something," Adams said. 

Adams said he felt the NRL State Of Mind program was excellent as it showcased a lot of real life struggles from current or ex-NRL stars that people could relate to.

"It gives people a different insight into how others have dealt with mental health problems," Adams said.

"It also makes them realise it is good to speak to a trusted person about one's problems, rather than bottling them all up."

Adams hoped the program will instigate these simple conversations and make people more open minded about speaking to others and asking for help when they are struggling.

Over the past 10 years, Weipa Raiders have won the local competition and Cape Cluster twice, and have continuously competed in the Cape competitions.

Many players have achieved representative honours while some have gone down Northern Pride and North Queensland Cowboys pathways.

Rugby league is the main sport played across the region and is still very much at grassroots level compared to other areas.

The Weipa community is passionate about rugby league and it is hoped more youngsters will start playing the game earlier.
The Weipa community is passionate about rugby league and it is hoped more youngsters will start playing the game earlier.

Rugby league numbers across the region are growing as more competitions and representative pathways are being formed.

"I expect as a whole the game will flourish over the next few years especially with female participation predicted to soar as the elite NRL Women's competition starts to grow," Adams said. 

He felt with juniors, there should be more concentration on some form of competition for areas where kids don't get to play footy.

The geographical area of the region and vast remoteness of some communities presents its own set of challenges.

Adams said if a carnival for the kids could be held three times a year in a central location, it would be positive progress and it would be great if youngsters could be encouraged to start playing earlier if the game is to develop, then competitions will reap the benefits.

"Ideally, it would be great if a QRL staff member and and NRL Development Officer could be based in Cape York area," Adams said. 

"This would mean communities can benefit from programs and education more frequently, and in return the game has more of a presence in the region."

QRL Northern Assistant Manager Robbie Moore said it was one of the best weekends he had been involved in with the NRL State of Mind team being so engaged with young kids right up to adults.

"Toopi and Tonga were involved in everything which included school visits, State of Mind programs in Napranum community and Western Cape residential campus students, as well as being in attendance at Weipa Raiders presentations and junior grand final games," Moore said. 

NRL State of Mind ambassadors Willie Tonga and Clinton Toopi along with the assistance of NRL and QRL staff recently ran State of Mind programs in the Weipa community.
NRL State of Mind ambassadors Willie Tonga and Clinton Toopi along with the assistance of NRL and QRL staff recently ran State of Mind programs in the Weipa community.

They also joined in with the awareness suicide community walk and breakfast barbecue.

The highlight of the weekend was when Tonga and Toopi laced up the boots for the annual old Boys v Weipa Raiders game.

“It’s very pleasing to see the local community opening up to the serious topic of mental health, and the NRL team are so good at what they do within the State of Mind program in prevention or seeking support for all players, family and community members," Moore said.

Neesha Eckersley NRL Community Manager - Health & Projects, Rob Hall QRL Education & Well-being Manager, Willie Tonga NRL State Of Mind Ambassador, Adam MacDonald NRL Cape/Torres Game Development Officer, Robbie Moore Assistant QRL Northern Manager, Karl Adams Weipa Raiders President and Clinton Toopi NRL State Of Mind Ambassador.
Neesha Eckersley NRL Community Manager - Health & Projects, Rob Hall QRL Education & Well-being Manager, Willie Tonga NRL State Of Mind Ambassador, Adam MacDonald NRL Cape/Torres Game Development Officer, Robbie Moore Assistant QRL Northern Manager, Karl Adams Weipa Raiders President and Clinton Toopi NRL State Of Mind Ambassador.

Main image: The Weipa Raiders celebrated their 10th year with a huge weekend of footy which included their presentation night, annual Old Boys game and visit from QRL and NRL staff.