Playing rugby league in remote communities has its challenges on a good day, let alone facing the strict COVID-19 restrictions that have been enforced upon indigenous communities, such as Normanton.
It's safe to say the Gulf United Muddy’s have been thrown some real curve balls this season, and they could have quite simply waived the white flag and regrouped in 2021; but instead, they were determined to return and give the kids in the town something to look forward to.
“This year has been a short, but intense season with a lot more work placed on the committee to meet all the regulations, however it has been another successful year,” club president Amanda Scott said after the club's grand final day and season celebration on Saturday.
In the COVID-19 break, the hard-working committee used the downtime to refresh and up-skill themselves, completing coaching, refereeing and League Safe courses all thanks to sponsorship from the Normanton Police.
Because of these efforts, they proudly had 101 players and 11 volunteers registered in the 2020 season, proving no pandemic was going to stop this determined club from achieving their goals.
Their volunteers took great care in following Queensland Rugby League's Return to Play guidelines and continually liaised with local police to support the return of sport.
From these steps, they have become clear leaders in how to return to sport with COVID-19 restrictions.
The club has also been well-supported by the community, allowing Gulf United to continue to focus on being a family-friendly club, especially with their ability to host a second night of the 'feed the team' program.
“This wouldn’t be possible without the culinary skills of some of our committee and parents. Thank you for cooking for us every week," Scott said.
"Looking ahead, our club is financially secure to start again next year and this is thanks to the continued support of our wonderful sponsors... something the club is very thankful to have."
In 2021, the Muddy’s are looking to also play games in Karumba and travel to carnivals to give more kids the opportunity to experience the great game of rugby league.
“I would like to wish all the best and farewell to all the players that will be leaving us next year to boarding school," Scott said.
"I trust our club has given you the basic foundations to continue your love of rugby league.
“Lastly, I would personally like to say a big thank you to our committee.
"You have done an outstanding job this year to get this running.
"We have a great team and work well together and I am truly grateful for all your help and support this year.”
It's volunteers like those in Normanton that make rugby league the sport of choice in Queensland, and the QRL team in North Queensland thank them for their dedication.