Mini Maroons is the weekly round-up of the amazing things kids are doing in community rugby league.
This week we are celebrating a fourth generation Nanango Stag, a rugby league-loving Aspley family, and a Cairns referee following in his father's footsteps.
Alirah Tewes-Smallwood is all heart.
The 10-year-old not only comes from a long line of Nanango Stags players and coaches, but she is one of the club’s most dedicated young guns.
Only in her second year of rugby league, club secretary Sam Wilson said Alirah had impressed at the Stags with her leadership and willingness to step up from the under 10s to the under 12s when needed.
“Alirah definitely brings the heart,” Wilson said.
“She matches it with the big boys out on the field… the coach from under 12s actually said last weekend they’d be lost without Alirah in the under 12s … everyone steps up when she's on the field.”
Alirah – who also plays touch football and does swimming and cross country - was “born into rugby league” with her great-grandfather, great-uncles, uncles and father all having either played or coached at Nanango, as well as her two older brothers.
She is one of only three girls at the club and her mother, Candace Tewes, said her daughter had a fearless attitude when it came to rugby league and did not let anything get in her way.
“It’s in her blood,” Tewes said.
“She loves playing with the boys and doesn’t let the fact she’s a girl stop her. If anything it drives her harder.
“She’s not afraid to tell the boys to listen to the coach or stop mucking around at training and pull their heads in… she brings a sense of sass to the club.
“She not only does her under 10s training each week, but she comes back a second day and trains with the under 12s off her own back.
“She can’t get enough of training or football. Her confidence grows even more when she steps up for the under 12s … she gets to direct the team at times, which she absolutely loves.
“She’s not the biggest kid on the under 12s team but she doesn’t let her size stop her… she’s never afraid to get in there and give 100 per cent.”
Main image: Alirah Tewes-Smallwood in action for Nanango Stags. Photo: ESi Sports Photography
QRL South East
When the Diver kids run onto the footy field, they have some of the biggest supporters in the game – each other.
Five of the six Diver siblings play rugby league for the Aspley Devils.
Sebastian (under 14s), Zachariah (13s), Ezekiel (11s), Isaiah (6s) and Isabel (Little Devils program) moved from the small town of Milton in New South Wales to Brisbane at the start of this year and have found their new rugby league home at Aspley.
Their mother, Sally, is a team manager while father, Adam, coaches the under 11s.
Nine-year-old Elijah is the only one who doesn’t play rugby league, instead opting for AFL with the Aspley Hornets.
But no matter what, Sally Diver said sport was what united her family and they were all each other’s biggest fans.
“It’s something that always brings us together,” Diver said.
“We’re all into our rugby league. My husband and I were brought up with it - my dad played for as long as I can remember and was still involved in coaching when we all left home.
“I really love watching them play sports. They get really involved in their teams and they’ve made a lot of friends playing rugby league.
“Isaiah especially loves cheering for his own team. It’s so sweet to watch. I like as a family that they love to watch their siblings play. That’s really nice.”
Diver said there was definitely a juggle in getting their kids to their respective games each weekend – and it’s been harder since they moved away from their family in NSW. But they are managing and feel the support from the Aspley Devils.
“We’re finding it really good at Aspley,” she said.
“They’ve been supportive right from the start. They’re a big club and they’ve been absolutely amazing. I can’t fault them.”
Ethan Bain is skyrocketing through the refereeing ranks in North Queensland.
The 14-year-old – who last year won the Far North Queensland Rugby League aspiring referee of the year – has been touted for big things, and it all started after he followed in his father’s footsteps.
Alan Bain started refereeing when he was 40 and is now the Cairns District Rugby League Referees Association’s junior referee coordinator.
He said he was “very proud” to see what his son had accomplished, in what was just his second year of refereeing.
“He’s a very confident young lad,” Bain said.
“He’s very driven in whatever he does and in his rugby league as well. He does all the little things right when it comes to refereeing.
“He only got into refereeing because I was already doing it. We both love it.
“I’m very proud of him. It’s just good he’s actually giving back to the community at such a young age. He gets on with everyone, he’s pretty cruisy and takes everything in his stride.
“Refereeing is a hard thing to do. I wouldn’t have been able to do it when I was 14-years-old.”
Jim Millar, the president of CDRLRA, said he saw a promising future in officiating for Ethan – who plays with the Edmonton Storm - if he ended up choosing refereeing over playing.
“His commitment is one thing but his knowledge of law is fantastic and his ability to take on coaching is a big thing, especially with young match officials," Millar said.
“Ethan’s also a player so he understands the game very well and playing in the spine, he has good game awareness. He’s a smart kid, a very smart kid.
“I run the High Performance Unit squad up here so I’ll be nominating him for next season’s intake for the HPU.
“He has the ability to take refereeing to higher places and other levels. I hope he stays a match official because we need people like him in the game.”