Multiple times a week, a handful of the Western Mustangs' under 16 squad journey more than 700 kilometres without fuss to participate in the Cyril Connell Challenge.
Making the trek from Roma to Toowoomba regularly to train and play, the squad's eastern members wanted to ease the burden slightly and show their appreciation of the commitment their western teammates make, so they packed their swags and headed to the Maranoa for a training weekend recently.
With the overall squad made up by players from not just Toowoomba, but also Tenterfield, Warwick, Oakey, Dalby, Roma and everywhere in between, Mustangs Cyril Connell Challenge coach Matthew Jahnke said the idea was the least his side could do to be fair to those players who had shown almighty dedication.
"There are five boys in the squad that are out in that direction and the team is obviously the Western Mustangs that incorporates Roma so obviously the idea was to make sure these boys get an equal opportunity as well," Jahnke said.
"They’re travelling 400 kilometres one way to come into a training session that might be an hour and a half at the gym followed by a field session and then have to drive home, so it was a way to make sure we’re fair and equitable to everybody.
"It’s also a great way for the boys to get out to the other communities and be part of that as well."
Many of the players, with the support of family, friends and local clubs, have spent plenty of time on the road; none more so than the Roma and District players who have already clocked up more than 12,000 kilometres, travelling more than 700 kilometres weekly to attend a two-hour training session in Toowoomba.
"They love it and they’ve never once complained about having to do it. It’s just something they’ve always had to do," Jahnke said.
"For me, if we could give them a sleep in or give them an opportunity to stay in their own bed and wake up the next day and come to training, I thought it was a great idea and a great way to build team camaraderie and that sort of stuff."
Arriving in Roma, the boys were greeted with open arms by the Roma and District Rugby League community who provided them with good old country hospitality.
Rolling out swags at the local Roma Cities clubhouse, the squad were even confronted with a grasshopper plague that gave them a real bush experience.
"It was good… it was nice and tight," Jahnke said.
"I’d like to thank Roma Cities who allowed us to stay inside the clubhouse out there.
"The boys brought their swags and got in there and had a good night. There was some good banter and some good chats.
"They were up early in the morning and Cities put on breakfast for us as well so we were able to have a good breaky before getting stuck into our training session."
With only one match remaining for the Mustangs in the 2021 Cyril Connell Challenge season, Jahnke said it had been an enjoyable experience to coach the hard-working youngsters.
Match: Capras v Mustangs
Round 5 -
Venue: Theodore Sports and Recreation Ground, Theodore
"I’ve really enjoyed coaching this bunch of boys," Jahnke said.
"There’s a lot of talent from not only Toowoomba, but obviously Roma, Dalby and surrounds as well.
"There’s a lot of great young kids all willing to put their hands up, get in and get the job down and work hard at training.
"We set pretty high standards for ourselves and I think we’re moving in the right direction."