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Mother-daughter duo blazing a trail in north Queensland

With the Baira name synonymous among north Queensland rugby league circles, you couldn't meet a more passionate member of the family than Rothana.

A proud Badulaug and Kuku Yalanji woman, Baira has been playing rugby league for more than 20 years, and from the time she stepped onto the footy field, she was a force to be reckoned with. 

Wearing Souths and Brothers colours during her playing career; Baira also made the North Queensland Marlins team numerous times and has played in so many carnivals up and down the coast of Queensland that she's lost count.

Many say they would rather be running alongside her than at her.

Off the field, Baira has also been volunteering for more than 10 years; from managing and running water for various teams and doing the stats for the Western Lions, to most recently coaching the Townsville Brothers open women's team to a grand final this season.

But before hanging up the boots, she made a pact with her first-born daughter, Lyrech (Mara) to take the field together.

Once Mara turned 17, she could play in the open women’s division, so the duo ran out alongside each other for the first time at last year's Townsville Murri Carnival.

It was was a very proud moment when they finally stepped onto the footy field together for the first time.

To make the family occasion even more special, Mara also played alongside her aunties, Sonja and Seneva.

Following in her mum’s footsteps on and off the rugby league field, Mara has been playing rugby league for more than nine years with Brothers, and is a current member of the North Queensland Gold Stars BHP Premiership squad.

Lyrech Mara played with Townsville Brothers this season.
Lyrech Mara played with Townsville Brothers this season.

Mara is also a great volunteer for the game; with her first coaching role being at United Suburbs where she took care of the little under 6s.

The young up-and-comer has also been the manager of the under 14 and 16 teams that her mum has coached, along with being the water runner for her sister’s team.

When asked about her biggest inspiration, it was no surprise who Mara looked up to.

"It comes as no surprise that my mum is my main role model," Mara said.

"Because mum has had to become such a strong independent woman these last six years from losing my dad, it hasn’t been easy on her growing up my two sisters as well as myself, but she’s managed to do it somehow.

"Another [role model] would be Renae Kunst.

"She’s played at the highest level of rugby league, even playing against and in the same team as my mum."

Hailing from a close-knit Indigenous family that is highly respected in the community, Baira said this week's NAIDOC Week acknowledgement was an opportunity for the community to unite.

"NAIDOC week is a time we get to come together in the community; not only for Indigenous people, but also non-Indigenous people," Baira said.

"We get to share and celebrate our culture, history and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples with our community.

"It is an amazing feeling of connection that you get with everyone especially at the march and deadly day out."

Mara also believed it was an opportunity to give back.

"It’s about giving back to the community as well," Mara said.

"As I am an Indigenous support officer and teacher aide working in a Catholic primary school, I am also teaching the younger generation about our cultural history and teaching the non-Indigenous students and teachers as well."

As two beautiful, strong independent Indigenous women who are highly regarded in the community, it is an honour to have both Rothana and Lyrech involved in rugby league and they should be thanked for everything they do. 

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This NAIDOC week, QRL.com.au is showcasing some of the great Indigenous participants who make a difference to rugby league in Queensland. Read more about the QRL Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) here.