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Karina Brown with Helensvale Hornet player, Jenna. Photo: Gold Coast Titans

A new girls competition on the Gold Coast has seen a boom in female participation rates, with the under 12s registrations already up by 41 per cent from last year.

In a first for the QRL South East region, the Karina Brown Challenge – named after the Harvey Norman Queensland Maroons star winger - is a trial, female-only under 12s competition on the Gold Coast.

Twelve clubs have already been approved to take part in the competition and with registrations open until March 25, there is still plenty of opportunity for growth.

The under 12 female participation rates on the Gold Coast have risen 41.43 per cent above last year’s numbers. And under 12 female participation is up by 29.96 per cent across all of southeast Queensland, while overall southeast female registrations are up by 17.99 per cent.

With the continuing success around the female game, Ipswich is looking to do a similar competition towards the end of the season and SEQ board member Catherine Beaumont said these trials would hopefully become permanent.

Gold Coast female participation rates are booming.
Gold Coast female participation rates are booming.

“With the under 12s, it’s about creating a pathway,” Beaumont said.

“In the past under 12s has been the last age where some girls could play after playing mixed for so many years.

“Now they know they don’t have to stop playing the sport they enjoy. This trial has all been very positive so far… it’s being grasped in a good way and good light.

“It will increase the number of young girls being involved in and playing league.

“With this, they can stay on the field and be at the centre of it, not just be the sideline support.”

Karina Brown has played an integral part in developing women's rugby league on the Gold Coast, including founding the Burleigh Bears women's team.
Karina Brown has played an integral part in developing women's rugby league on the Gold Coast, including founding the Burleigh Bears women's team.

Despite the boom in numbers and the positive reaction to the upcoming Karina Brown Challenge, Beaumont said registrations were still open and they wanted to encourage as many girls as possible to sign up – not just on the Gold Coast, but across the southeast.

Beaumont – who takes the lead on female participation - said the proposal for the competition first came to the southeast board around September last year and it was not just a matter of giving the opportunities to girls, but showing others what they could have.

“What we want to see is that every person enjoys the time that they’re there,” Beaumont said.

“We want them to look forward to coming back and to then encourage their friends to come watch. This might encourage their friends to sign on for 2023 and beyond.

“What we hope is that we can go from under 12s on the Gold Coast to under 14s and under 16s teams. Eventually, it won’t be every second club with a team, but every single club.

“We want people to know that a girl can go to these clubs and be taught the correct way to tackle, to catch the ball, throw the ball, and to get tackled and get up unafraid.

“We want to grow the female participation throughout the whole of rugby league.”

Register here.

Main image: Karina Brown with Helensvale Hornet player Jenna. Photo: Gold Coast Titans

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