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'The stories we've been able to tell are nothing short of inspirational'

This year has been an interesting and different season to say the least.

It's the first full year we've had to adapt to living with this virus called COVID-19 and the havoc it can wreak.

This year has tested our change agility. Some competitions this season were left on a knife-edge during the few lockdown periods that were had in Cairns, Townsville and South East Queensland and put a strain and tested the patience of not only players, coaches, volunteers and spectators. It also put a lot of pressure on clubs and the game itself.

But it should come as no surprise that one thing that didn't change was the immense resilience and Queenslander spirit that comes to light at times of adversity. We've seen it through floods, fire and drought; and now we've seen it shine during this new challenge we've had to navigate through... a worldwide pandemic. 

Another thing COVID-19 hasn't changed is the incredible contribution people make to continue prospering rugby league in community areas.

'Women in league are very important'

I for one, am proud and privileged to understand and see firsthand these remarkable efforts. Not only in my role with Queensland Rugby League - first as an operations manager based in the Central Highlands and now recently, based in Brisbane with our digital content team covering community rugby league - but also as someone who was born and bred in regional Queensland and knows how much of an impact rugby league and sport has on community areas.

That's why one of my biggest highlights this year was travelling across the length and breadth of Queensland to capture the stories of some of these people whose efforts to keep the rugby league flame burning brightly is nothing short of inspirational.

Over the journey, we travelled just short of 3000 kilometres, interviewed more than 50 different people, sampled our fair share of pies from local bakeries and shared a yarn, laugh and a beer with many others. 

The end result - other than the personal memories of seeing the sights of some places I'd never experienced before and meeting countless uplifting people who keep the greatest game of all humming along - is eight small features. Each of them showcases the incredible contribution these local league champions are making to continue bettering their community.

It was inspiring to see the Murgon Mustangs use rugby league as a vehicle to drive change in their local South Burnett community. Photo: Cameron Stallard/QRL
It was inspiring to see the Murgon Mustangs use rugby league as a vehicle to drive change in their local South Burnett community. Photo: Cameron Stallard/QRL

Beginning today - Wednesday, October 20 - at 5pm with the story of this year's XXXX Community Club of the Year, Barcaldine Sandgoannas; the QRL will be sharing a new story every Wednesday afternoon on QRL.com.au and the QRL Facebook page leading up to Christmas.

From the incredible and inspiring efforts of Gillian Bann in Yarrabah, who is making such a difference to the youth in her community, to the story of Ben Palmer in Longreach, who not only runs his own business, but is the local club president and drives thousands of kilometres just to keep junior rugby league alive and kicking in outback Queensland.

It was a motivating few weeks trekking across our great state to capture these exceptional stories to share and I hope you can tune in to see the incredible contributions these people make for the greatest game of all in their community.