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The Karalee Tornadoes under 10s team in their first game of the season.

The motto of the Karalee Junior Rugby League Club is more than just words. The Karalee Tornadoes walk the talk.

The club has been through two major floods – 2011 and most recently February, 2022 – during club president Amy Huckel’s tenure but each time they bounce back stronger than ever.

Huckel has fulfilled just about every role at the Tornadoes since 2010. She’s seen it all, and bounced back from it all too.

“Our club motto is ‘family, fitness and friendship’ and that is probably the reason we are so resilient,” she said.

“We are like a big family and we all stick together.

“In the floods, because our members live in a flood-affected area, we made sure our families came first. We went and cleaned their houses out if they needed it before we went down to the club. We made sure that they know we love and support them all.”

The Karalee Tornadoes under 10s team in their first game of the season.
The Karalee Tornadoes under 10s team in their first game of the season.

The club - which has won the XXXX Community Club Award for the month of May - still doesn’t have access to any of their buildings. They exist, but they don’t have power. That hasn’t stopped the Tornadoes.

“We’ve been running home games like troopers…off-grid camping style with solar panels and camping fridges,” Huckel grinned.

“That’s how we have been running the club since the floods.”

Post-floods the club had to find another playing venue for a period of time with a local soccer club helping out before Easter.

Karalee Tornadoes surrounded by floodwaters in 2011.
Karalee Tornadoes surrounded by floodwaters in 2011.

“Then the council helped us out with a different venue until our lights were fixed,” Huckel said.

“We’ve only had field lighting since Easter. We’ve had no toilets so they gave us a couple of portaloos.

“We are just making do with what we have but we are still rocking it. We just had a huge weekend of Friday, Saturday and Sunday home games.

“Friday night we used lights running off deep-cycle batteries to make it safe for everyone to see.”

Despite all these hurdles the club has grown its junior numbers from under 6s through to under 17s.

“Just this week we signed on more players, which was good because the cut-off is June 30,” Huckel said.

The club holds an Indigenous Round each year, a round that has special meaning in more ways than one.

“Indigenous Round came about because one of our life members who was a member of the Stolen Generation – Leeann Hogarth – sadly passed away unexpectedly about five years ago,” Huckel said.

“Her son Jamie has been a Tornado since he was six and is the club’s most capped player ever with more than 300 games.

“We wanted to do something in honour of her and so people knew that we were trying to close the gap. They are both part of our history, and moving forward we want everyone to know.”

As well as an Indigenous Round, the club also hold a Women in League round.
As well as an Indigenous Round, the club also hold a Women in League round.

The club’s Indigenous Round is held on the same round as the NRL with multiple cultural activities and special events.

“We create something every round. The first year we built this bench seat and every kid in the club put their handprint on it. That is now the memorial chair for Leeann,” Huckel said.

“Every year we create something that makes Indigenous Round bigger and better.”

Karalee members are well known for helping other clubs on a regular basis.

“Every week we help wherever we can. I just went and helped do first aid for a club because they didn’t have a FAO [first aid officer] available,” Huckel said.

“We all do that. Ipswich league is just like that. Everybody helps everybody.”

The Tornadoes have been through plenty in recent times, but they prevail.

“In 2011 we were significantly flooded. The water was four metres higher than what it was this year,” Huckel said.

“We lost everything then. We built it all bigger and better, only to lose it all again this year.”

This year's flood clean-up.
This year's flood clean-up.

The flooding came up so quickly in February that the road to the club was cut-off before the Tornadoes could salvage much.

“We could only save a small portion of what we had,” Huckel said.

“Everyone pitches in. We all help each other out. We are all family and that is what our members tell us is the reason they stay.

“I know all the kids’ names in our club. I treat them like they are my own.”

Once a Tornado, always a Tornado.

“In 2011 there was a photo taken of the former president’s son Aaron McKewen. He was eight or nine at the time,” Huckel said.

“He hasn’t been at the club in a while and is in his 20s now but this year he came down to the club to help us clean up after the floods. He put his arm around another little eight-year-old and I took a photo that is nearly identical to the one back in 2011.”

Aaron McKewen in 2011.
Aaron McKewen in 2011.
Aaron McKewen and Harper Huckel in 2022 after the floods.
Aaron McKewen and Harper Huckel in 2022 after the floods.

To nominate a volunteer or club for the QRL's monthly community awards, click here.

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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