Rugby league greats thrill fans in Cairns charity match

Fans packed Barlow Park in Cairns on Saturday for the inaugural International Legends of League charity match against the Far North Queensland All Stars, which saw a number of former greats take to the field.

Despite a fight back by All Stars, the Australian NRL legends held a slim two-point lead at half-time.

It was a close tussle, however the Legends were too strong with a 26-24 victory, which included two tries to Ben Hannant, and one each to Chris Walker, Peter Gill and Matt Bowen.

The International Legends of League game was held in conjunction with Cairns Regional Council and Piccone Family Group, raising funds for grassroots rugby league.

Big names included Kerry Boustead, Cliff Lyons, Noel Goldthorpe, Matt Bowen, Willie Tonga, Ben Hannant, Kevin Campion, Peter Gill, Craig Teevan, PJ Marsh, Chris Walker, Terry Matterson, John Hopoate, Leo Dynevor and Chris Walker.

The FNQ All Stars team was brimming with a mix of former Northern Pride, NRL, State of Origin and international players such as Ty Williams, Chris Sheppard, Chey Bird, Jason Roos, Brett Anderson, David Maiden, Brenton Bowen and Joel Reithmuller. 

Past and present local stars included Matt Clifford, John Clifford, Aaron Ketchell, as well as Maurice Blair, Craig Teitzel, Ben Rauter, Brenton Bowen, Brent Webb, Leon Yeatman, David Westley and Aaron Fa'aoso and the team were coached by former Australian great Lionel Williamson and managed by Brisbane Broncos and St George player Gavin (Jed) Allen.

Local stars Anthony Satrick and Steve Singleton made their debut for the Legends team.

Former Northern Pride legends Bird, Sheppard and Williams ran out for the All Stars team and were back together for the first time since 2010.

Brothers in arms Brad, Jason and Kris Tassell played together for the first time in the FNQ All Stars team in honour of their father Tom Tassell, a stalwart of the game who sadly passed away earlier this year.

Even former local player and Cairns Mayor Bob Manning pulled on the boots and lined up for the All Stars team.

Australian Legends of League team with Cairns District Junior Rugby League Under 6 players. Photo: Maria Girgenti
Australian Legends of League team with Cairns District Junior Rugby League Under 6 players. Photo: Maria Girgenti

There was a surprise appearance by Cowboys young gun Jake Clifford, who ran water for the All Stars team which featured his father Matt and uncle John.

Both teams were playing for bragging rights to lift the Tom Tassell Memorial Trophy which was presented to Legends captain Boustead by Tassell's wife Sandy.

Loud cheers erupted from the crowd when in the final minutes a pass was made to ball boy Kelly Clifford, cousin of Cowboys star Jake, who ducked and weaved his way past the Legends players to score a final try for the All Stars despite losing a boot along the way.

After the game, fans streamed onto the field to mingle and rub shoulders with their rugby league heroes, obtain photos and autographs, before a number of Legends jerseys were auctioned off.

While in the Far North, Teevan, Dynevor, Boustead and event organiser Troy Byers visited St Augustine's, Cairns West State School, Bentley Park College, Woree State School where they spoke to students about anti-bullying, perils of social media, dream, believe and achieve - never giving up on their dreams regardless of their background and location.

Boustead, Webb, Teevan and Dynevor also ran a junior coaching clinic at Redlynch with future rugby league stars, took part in a bowls day at West Cairns and some of the legends played touch footy with local Flamingo boys.

A meet and greet was held on the morning of the game at Cairns Central shopping centre where fans had the opportunity to obtain autographs and photos with their favourite Australian league legends.

Grassroots rugby league was the real winner on the day with a number of Cairns District Junior Rugby League Under 6 teams on display prior to the main game.

A highlight of the games was when a Redlynch Razorbacks Under 6 player streaked away and ran 100 metres to score a try.

A Cairns Indigenous v Cairns Torres Strait exhibition match was played where  Country romped in over City 42-26 after a 22-10 half-time lead.

Earlier in the afternoon, Northern Pride Under 18 trials were also held followed by a Schoolboys game St Augustine's College v St Andrew's and a Yarrabah v Cairns Masters match.

Australian Legends of League and FNQ All Stars teams with future stars of the game - Cairns District Junior Rugby League Under 6 players. Photo: Maria Girgenti
Australian Legends of League and FNQ All Stars teams with future stars of the game - Cairns District Junior Rugby League Under 6 players. Photo: Maria Girgenti

Main image: The winning Australian Legends of League captain Kerry Boustead is presented with Tom Tassell Memorial trophy by Tom's wife Sandy. Photo: Maria Girgenti