Mini Maroons is the weekly round-up of the amazing things kids are doing in community rugby league.
This week we are celebrating a rising star from the Outback, an up-and-coming coach from Cairns, and the next generation from the South East.
Elle Warwick will never forget the words her aunty, Kathryn Spence, said to her about rugby league: “If that’s where you want to go and what you want to do, then go for it.”
After a failed attempt at netball several years ago – in which Elle walked off the court after only 15 minutes to declare it wasn’t the game for her – her parents, Eddie and Rebecca, were reluctant to pay for her new sporting interest in rugby league.
But it was Aunty Kathryn who helped her find her motivation, right before her tragic death in February last year.
Now, Elle is kicking goals in her aunty’s memory and was last weekend handed the Matt Scott Spirit of the Carnival Award for player of the tournament at the Outback Junior Muster in Barcaldine.
She was also selected in the Queensland Outback under 14 girls team.
“Her aunty passed away in a car accident, but she said to Ellie, ‘if that’s where you want to go and what you want to do, then go for it’,” Elle’s father, Eddie Warwick, said.
“Ever since then, she’s just been moving forward. I’ll always remember when she went to her first training session and afterwards she told me she had found a sport she really loved doing. She wants to go to the highest level she can every year that she plays.
“When my wife’s sister died, our family was in a bit of a slump. Seeing Elle do this, it’s brought joy back into our lives. Rebecca has never known much about football but is getting more involved now.
“I’ve never been so proud in my whole entire life … I said to Rebecca that I’ll never miss a game as long as I’m alive. I always want my kids to go forward in life.”
It’s been a rapid rise for the 12-year-old during the past 13 months.
In 2021, she played for the Carnarvon Cubs and was named the St George Junior Rugby League’s most valuable player.
This season, she now travels to Toowoomba to play with Highfields as no clubs in Roma have a place for her ahead of her 13th birthday in October.
She was part of the Southwest Emus side and was also picked in the girls’ Team of the Carnival at the Walkers Weekend Challenge team.
Warwick was with his daughter at the Outback Junior Muster on May 14, where she won the Matt Scott Spirit of the Carnival Award, and said he saw not only the effort she put into the tournament, but the development as well.
“She goes on the football field and plays 100 per cent every time she plays,” he said.
“She put tears into mine and Rebecca’s eyes on the weekend … she walked up to us, all dressed to play and had her wrist taped with Aunty and a love heart written on it. I could not be any prouder.”
Main image: Elle Warwick with Queensland Outback under 14 coach Daniel Rhodes after claiming the Matt Scott Spirit of the Carnival Award at the Outback Junior Muster. Photo: Aaron Skinn at Satisfaction Photos/QRL
Meet coach Xavier.
One of the biggest supporters of the Cairns Brothers JRLFC, Xavier Buie - who has an intellectual disability and global development delay – recently picked up the clipboard to take on the job of the under 10s honorary coach.
Xavier loves nothing more than watching his brothers George (under 14s) and Samu (under 10s) play, but now he’s finding his own special role within the club.
Cairns Brothers vice-president, Sonny Samuel, said the idea came from under 10s coach Jarrod Batten, who had witnessed Xavier’s unwavering support from the sidelines for the past three years, since the Buie family joined the club.
“He’s always at our events, dressing up and getting involved,” Samuel said.
“He’s there every weekend. His whole family – mum, dad, brothers and sisters, aunties and grandparents - turn up. They’re always there supporting their boys and Xavier’s always there cheering.
“Jarrod thought it would be nice for him to have that engagement. Xavier was kitted out with our club’s coaches pack with a hat, shorts and shirt, and he was provided with a clipboard to assist with duties from jersey allocations, warm-ups, helping with interchanges, giving out drinks and awarding player of the match.
“Ever since then (May 8) he’s been like their assistant coach. He’s always turned up every weekend but now he helps out and feels part of the team.
“He’s so happy. Everyone says hello to him and he’s turned himself into a little celebrity.”
Xavier, 13, hasn’t had the opportunity to play the game himself yet, but is now looking at his options with Cairns Brothers development officer Tim Rumford and the club’s program with ARC Disability Services.
QRL South East
The NRL’s Magic Round had an extra bit of charm about it for a group of young guns at the weekend.
A select group of three to five-year-olds were chosen to showcase the Munchkin League at Suncorp Stadium on Sunday, in what was the first time the NRL’s program was ever included as part of a game day event.
The NRL’s Munchkin League manager, Kathryn Ballinger, said while the kids couldn’t fully understand the significance of playing on the hallowed turf of Suncorp Stadium, they all basked in the glory that came on the day.
“They were super excited and I don’t think they quite they understood what it all meant until they got there,” Ballinger said.
“To be able to play and then go and actually watch the big boys play, it was definitely a first for them and their families.
“They do the program at daycare centres so these kids were able to come along and do their favourite activities, like try scoring and kicking the ball through mini goalposts.
“To finish they walked through the crowd and the crowd were clapping and waving at them. It was so cool for them. They were lapping it up and waving back and laughing. It was pretty cute.”
Ballinger, who had her own child take part in the day, said the children also got to see where rugby league can take them.
With Munchkin League the introductory program for young kids, they will then progress to the NRL’s League Stars program for primary school-aged children and the TackleReady program for under 6s and under 7s at community clubs.
Once they have completed the TackleReady program, young rugby league hopefuls get to move into the tackle version of the game and all these levels were on display at Suncorp Stadium ahead of the Canberra Raiders and Cronulla Sharks clash.
“It showcased the start of the journey,” Ballinger said.