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'These girls are our future' - Tracey Thompson

Queensland rugby league pioneer Tracey Thompson is passionate about making sure the future stars of the game are confident and ready to tackle any obstacle they face. 

"I'm very passionate about our youth, especially the women... getting them to believe in themselves and back their ability, because we have some natural talented athletes out there, but they lack confidence and self-esteem," Thompson said. 

"I want to help set them up for life."

The Deadly Choices ambassador organised for rugby league players from Ipswich State High and the Logan area, aged 13 to 18, to take part in a resilience challenge at Gallipolli Barracks with Warrant Officer Class 1 Kelly Hammant.

The struggle was real. Photo: Jorja Brinums/QRL
The struggle was real. Photo: Jorja Brinums/QRL

The girls, decked out in camouflage gear, were challenged over three hours with different exercises including running, taking part team-building activities, push-ups, burpees, obstacles, climbing high ropes and dragging themselves along the ground and through water. 

"I'm actually overwhelmed to be quite honest... the encouragement, the supporting of each other while they're going through different activities... I'm blown away," Thompson said. 

"I had tears in my eyes watching. Some of the girls doing the obstacle course were getting a bit scared, but their team mates were egging them on, saying 'you can do this'. They're amazing. These girls are our up-and-coming rugby league players, our future rugby league players.

"These obstacles that they're gone through, where they don't think they can do it... them 'boom', they do it and they're feeling on top of the world. It's all about getting the best out of them and getting them to believe in themselves... that they can achieve anything they want in life.

"It's about building up their confidence and self-esteem. Also, their resilience. So whenever they're feeling down on the football field, they can encourage each other and pick themselves and each other up.

"My passion is to continue educating these girls around living a healthy lifestyle, but most importantly, empowering them, because they're the next generation." 

Thompson, who captained the first ever Indigenous Women’s All Stars Team in 2010, represented Australia in two Rugby League World Cups and played for Queensland between 1999 and 2008, was joined by fellow rugby league legends Jenny Luker, Loretta O'Neill, Veronica White and Kerri Conlon.

Harvey Norman Queensland Maroons centre Julia Robinson also dropped in to see the girls. 

Hammant said all of the exercises the girls ran through were geared towards building them up. 

"It was good to build their confidence, team work and resilience, because that's what we're all about in the army," Hammant said. 

"They went brilliantly. It was excellent. Some of them were really shy in the beginning. They didn't start off as a team, but as they worked towards building their confidence, especially in the team building activities, they all came together and understood exactly what was required of them."

Hammant said all of the skills learned could translate onto the football field. 

"You need a leader, you need to work as a team and you all go up together... if you work as a team, you can achieve anything together," Hammant said.

Ipswich State High Year 12 student Tarleah Fisher-Pearson, who played for Ipswich in the Harvey Norman Under 19 competition, said "it was such a good thing to do". 

Ipswich State High Year 12 student Tarleah Fisher-Pearson (far right). Photo: Jorja Brinums/QRL
Ipswich State High Year 12 student Tarleah Fisher-Pearson (far right). Photo: Jorja Brinums/QRL

"It was fun... a good experience," Fisher-Pearson said. 

"It will help me adjust to new challenges... if a play stuffs up, to adjust."

The 17-year-old, who has been playing rugby league for four years - firstly for Brothers, now with the Ipswich team, said playing a team sport helped develop the team mentality that was important in sport, but also in life. 

"It's fun too, to play as a team," Fisher-Pearson said. 

"I'm hoping to make it into the NRLW. Help create a pathway for others too... to help them see the opportunities."