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Mini Maroons: 'She's my hero'

Mini Maroons is the weekly round-up of the amazing things kids are doing in community rugby league.

This week we are celebrating a brother and sister team from Townsville, a brave go-getter from Norfolk Island and Beaudesert, and the next generation of stars from Palmwoods.

QRL North

The Harbour siblings are giving the Walters brothers, Morris twins and Trbojevics a run for their money.

Thirteen-year-old Emmi Harbour and her big brother, Kris, 23, were just two of the stars who lined up for the Blackhawks All Abilities team in their exhibition clash against the Townsville All Stars at the XXXX Foley Shield on Friday night.

The brother and sister duo have been playing together since last year, when the All Abilities concept was introduced in Townsville.

Kris Harbour in the All Abilities exhibition match. Photo: Scott Radford-Chisholm/QRL
Kris Harbour in the All Abilities exhibition match. Photo: Scott Radford-Chisholm/QRL

Kris, who is autistic and intellectually impaired, came from a touch football background, but made the switch to All Abilities League Tag for the faster pace of the game.

Then, as organisers put out the call for more players, Emmi put her hand up to ensure it went ahead – and to play with her beloved big brother.

Their mum, Melissa Harbour, said they annoyed each other like any other brother and sister, but on the field they were a dynamic duo.

“They give each other support and I love watching it,” Harbour said of her children.

“They both love it and it’s a great atmosphere. All the teammates get along, they’re happy to share the ball, no one hogs it.

“Emmi loves playing sport. As soon as she heard about it, she definitely wanted to get on board with it and help get the team together. She’s pretty supportive.

“Like with any 13-year-old she knows it all and bosses her brother around a bit. It makes me laugh because he does listen to her but she gives him grief and he just rolls his eyes.

“Nine times out of 10 though, they get on pretty well.”

Harbour, who runs the Bentley Farm Disability Support and Respite in Townsville, said playing at the esteemed XXXX Foley Shield carnival was a highlight not just for her children, but all those involved in the All Abilities teams.

She said there wasn’t a lot of sport available for Kris where others understood him but now he was thriving in the All Abilities arena.

“He doesn’t care if they win or lose, but he loves being involved,” she said.

“He likes the fast pace and just the whole team-building side of it and being with like-minded mates.

“It’s not about winning or losing, it’s about playing and being part of something and feeling good about it.”

Main image: Emmi Harbour in action for the Blackhawks All Abilities team at the XXXX Foley Shield carnival. Photo: Scott Radford-Chisholm/QRL

QRL South East

First Norfolk Island, then Beaudesert. Next step: NRLW?

That’s certainly the hope of 14-year-old Mia Pashley, who is making her mark in female rugby league.

The young gun has played the game for the past four years on her home of Norfolk Island, versing the same team for 20 weeks each season in the small but fierce competition.

Mia Pashley after winning player of the match in her first game with the Beaudesert Kingfishers' under 14s girl's team. Photo: Beaudesert Kingfishers Facebook
Mia Pashley after winning player of the match in her first game with the Beaudesert Kingfishers' under 14s girl's team. Photo: Beaudesert Kingfishers Facebook

But this year she has been granted a chance to take her game further, earning a six-week scholarship with the Beaudesert Kingfishers - and attending Beaudesert State High School - after the junior rugby league club toured Norfolk last year.

In her very first game with the Kingfishers under 14 girls team last week, Mia scored the opening try and won player of the match in their 20-16 victory over Pine Rivers.

Her father, Andrew Pashley, said while the family missed her – and it was only her second time ever off the island - they could not be prouder of her determination and dedication.

The program between Norfolk Island and Beaudesert has been running for several years now, with a number of boys picking up scholarships. Mia is the first girl.

“They go over there and learn new skills and different ways of doing things that they wouldn’t necessarily get the chance to do here,” Pashley said of his daughter.

“It’s a big eye-opener and an amazing opportunity for anyone who gets picked to go away and play. They go from a school with 300 kids to a school with 2000 kids in it. That’s pretty much the whole population of Norfolk.

“It’s a bit daunting and a big thing but it’s been amazing for Mia. We’re excited for her.

“She’s my hero now. She beats any NRL player. She’s living her dream.”

In further exciting news for the Pashley family, Mia has also been selected to play in the Titans Schools League competition.

While the family haven’t been able to watch a full game of Mia’s yet, they will travel across to Queensland at the end of the month for a few weeks.

They have seen snippets of her time here – which has left them with tears in their eyes – and Pashley said his daughter wanted to eventually go on to play in the Harvey Norman Under 19s, like fellow Norfolk Islanders and Townsville Blackhawks duo, Seraseini Sadrata and Carolynn Morgan.

Then she wants to become the next Ali Brigginshaw.

“It’s terrifying and amazing but this is what she wants and we want to give her all the opportunity we can,” Pashley said.

“We’re very excited for her.”

QRL Central

The Palmwoods Devils under 6s are proving the future is promising for rugby league on the Sunshine Coast.

While young Queensland kids signing up to play the greatest game of all each year is not out of the ordinary, to have a full under 6s team means a lot to Palmwoods this season.

In 2020 – right before COVID hit Australia – only one child had signed up to play within the club's under 6 to under 8 age groups.

The 2022 Palmwoods under 6s.
The 2022 Palmwoods under 6s.

While the season never went ahead, it was certainly not the kind of numbers Palmwoods wanted to see.

However, with the introduction of Tag Rugby League and the Tackle Ready program, their junior teams are blossoming once again and seeing the under 6s in action in 2022 fills club secretary Jen Rickards with confidence the next generation are coming through in strong numbers.

“Our numbers have absolutely flourished this year,” she said.

“With League Tag in these age groups, that’s helping bring kids to the club. Parents aren’t worried as much and it gives the kids more confidence.”

The club – which celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2020 – will see their under 6s head into Round 3 this weekend after kicking off their season with a gala day last month.

Rickards said each and every kid was embracing their introduction to rugby league and making the Palmwoods club proud.

“They’re absolutely loving it,” she said.

“When you see them training, they’re running around like a mad mess but in their first game, they all pulled together.

“They all got to watch the under 7s first and saw how to play properly and so they went out there and pulled together.

“They’re learning new ball skills and learning how to tackle at an early age, which is important, knowing how to tackle properly and safely.”

Acknowledgement of Country

Queensland Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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