Mini Maroons is the weekly round-up of the amazing things kids are doing in community rugby league.
This week we are celebrating two young guns following in the footsteps of their famous father in Townsville, a Bundaberg boy moving outside of his comfort zone with the help of a Maroon, and three junior referees earning early rewards on the Gold Coast.
Rugby league history is littered with sons who have followed in the footsteps of their fathers. But for Harlan and Novah Winterstein, they are flipping the script.
The two middle daughters of former North Queensland Cowboys winger and premiership winner, Antonio Winterstein, have both taken up rugby league for the first time this year.
Nine-year-old Harlan and six-year-old Novah have joined the JCU Saints Junior Rugby League Club in Townsville and are quickly falling in love with the game.
Mum, Brooke Winterstein, said the pair – who have an older and a younger sister – have wanted to take up rugby league for quite some time, but it wasn’t until this year when other commitments fell into place, freeing up time in the busy family’s schedule, that they were able to make it possible.
Now both Harlan and Novah are turning heads, with Harlan scoring a double earlier this month and Novah picking up player of the day over the weekend.
“They’re really loving it,” Winterstein said.
“It’s definitely something that they’ve wanted to do. It was just finding a time we could make it happen… we really like what this club represented as well.
“The girls are thriving. It’s such an exciting time for women in sport and women in league.
“Unfortunately for us we’ve constantly had people commenting that we need a boy and Antonio needs a boy. Those comments seem innocent at the time but they’re unkind in a sense.
“We have four strong, capable, brave little girls. It has been proven that our girls can outrun the boys. They’re Antonio’s legacy and they will carry on the name they wish to.
“If they want to play rugby league on TV like Daddy did, then they’re able to do it.
“We have such a strong following for NRLW now, it’s really exciting times ahead. We get goosebumps thinking they can do this as a career.
“We’re waiting to hear if the Cowboys will get an NRLW side… maybe one day our girls could wear a Cowboys jersey like their daddy.”
Both Harlan and Novah have played Oztag and touch football in the past, but they still experienced some nerves in their first few games of the season.
While Novah is playing the LeagueTag version of the game at the moment and will get her tackling licence at season’s end, Harlan was thrown right into the tackling and is the only girl in her team.
But Winterstein said their second born was taking everything in her stride and showing everyone exactly what she could do.
“She’s quite an outgoing little girl but we have seen a quieter side of her when she’s there,” Winterstein said.
“A couple of weeks ago, she had a really great game and was really able to shine and do things we know she is capable of.
“She scored her first try from dummy half. Then she legged it all the way down the field and scored another try as well.
“After that the boys kept passing the ball to Harlan because they saw how fast she is. It really gave her a big confidence boost.
“We are super proud of both of them and can’t wait to see how far they want to go with it.”
Daly Olsen had never been to a rugby league clinic before – until the Queensland Rugby League’s Auswide Bank Regional Roadshow came to Bundaberg.
The seven-year-old, who has autism, attended the Roadshow’s clinic on May 3, ahead of the launch of the Northern Districts All Abilities Rugby League experience in July.
His mother, Sonya Olsen, said she wanted him to get a taste of what he would be doing once the competition kicked off and thought the Roadshow would be the perfect opportunity.
With Harvey Norman Queensland Maroons great Meg Ward and Queensland Maroons legend Sam Thaiday in attendance, Olsen told them her son had special needs and stepped back to see how he went.
And not only did Daly thrive in the rugby league environment, but he found himself a brand new idol in Ward.
“We just wanted to go to give Daly experience to see what a football clinic looked like,” Olsen said.
“He learns visually so if you can show him what he’s going to experience he can manage better and pick up on things.
“We didn’t expect him to engage like he did but a lot of that is down to Meg Ward. In one of the photos that was taken, he’s reaching out to touch Meg and he doesn’t like to be touched.
“It shows he trusts her so much.
“It was good to see him engage. Then when he’d had his time and started to find it was overwhelming, he removed himself. But he had a good amount of time.
“It’s for him to have some fun… he loves football. He’s doing it all quite well.
“When I handed him over, I just said that Daly has special needs and I stepped back, which was very, very hard to do. He had a fall at one point and I went to go straight away but I got told not to and Meg sorted him brilliantly.
“It blew me away. I was just beyond words.
“He will talk about Meg now for the rest of his life… if they get onto someone who gives them the time of day, they put their trust in that person and they become their world.”
QRL South East
Three first-year referees had a taste of what it’s like officiating at a major stadium at the weekend, after they were rewarded with the chance to take charge of the half-time games at Cbus Super Stadium.
Genesis Tupa’i, Vann Raven and Hope Hughes were all given the opportunity to officiate the games on Sunday, May 22, at half-time of the Gold Coast Titans versus Cronulla Sharks NRL clash and the Souths Logan Magpies versus Tweed Seagulls BMD Premiership match.
Gold Coast Rugby League Referees Association secretary Heath Zygnerski said the trio had made impressive progress during their first few months of officiating and deserved the chance to do something exciting.
“We use those appointments as reward and recognition,” Zygnerski said.
“Those three that we chose are all first year referees - they’re listening to their coaches, implementing the feedback on the field, and they’ve embraced the association by putting their hand up to do extra games.
“They’ve all been refereeing for three to four weeks but in that time they’ve gone from doing under 6s to under 9s. In referee terms for first years that’s a massive jump. That’s really good development on their part.
“With the support of the Titans, to be able to give our young officials a taste of what it is like on the big stage at Cbus, it assists us with the retention of our officials by giving them a sense of achievement.”
Zygnerski said the other benefit the trio got from the day was being able to see other match officials in action and to know where the pathways could take them if they decided to pursue officiating.