Mini Maroons is the weekly round-up of the amazing things kids are doing in community rugby league.
This week we are celebrating a Longreach junior preparing to graduate to the next level, a Capalaba trio learning all they can about the game, and a Mackay young gun enjoying a personal win.
In the space of one afternoon, Olivia Palmer went from not knowing what a kicking tee was to wanting to play rugby league week in, week out.
Now five years later, the talented 17-year-old is ready to move into the next stage of her football career, after she notched up her last appearance as a player at the Rees Orman City Country Cultural Exchange in Coolum over the weekend.
Olivia will graduate to senior grades next year but has thrived at the Cultural Exchange for the past five years and just took out the 2022 Female Spirit of the Outback award for her dedication and attitude.
Her father, Ben Palmer, said the reality hit for Olivia over the weekend that it was her last Cultural Exchange as a player, but he knew his daughter had many more exciting things to come beyond this season.
“With the award, I know on the girls’ side it goes to somebody that has a positive attitude, is helping out around the field, helping with other players,” Palmer said.
“She is one of the older ones now and I know she braided every single girl’s hair before their games. She was the mother hen around the group as well as trying her hardest on the field.
“She’s been there from the start. She will miss her junior years. She got upset at the end and said she would miss it. But I told her she can always come back as a coach or assistant coach … you can still be involved in the group and when I said that, she saw another side of football.
“She was pretty keen after that. I am pretty confident she’ll be back. She still wants to be involved in it.”
Palmer was the one who introduced his daughter to the game while coaching the juniors in their hometown of Longreach.
She came down to assist one day and he asked her to run the kicking tee. She didn’t know what it was but by the end of the game was begging her parents to play.
Over the weekend at the Cultural Exchange, the whole family was involved.
Palmer coached the under 14 girls, Olivia played for the under 17 girls while her mother Jacey was the first aid officer, and her 12-year-old brother Macen played for the under 14 boys.
With limited playing options in Longreach, especially for females, the annual Cultural Exchange holds a special place for the Palmer family.
“She loves the chance to actually play football,” Palmer said.
“There’s not a lot of opportunities for her where we live so to actually have the chance to train and play, it’s a big thing. A lot of girls are the same way.
“They get to go away and have a bit of training, meet new girls, get kits like the boys, and they feel part of it and play the game. There’s a couple of different reasons why it’s important to her.
“When I see what Livvy is doing, it’s important to me not just because it’s rugby league – I am very passionate about rugby league in the bush with country kids – but I’m more so pleased she continues to want to do it.
“At that age you see a lot of kids lose interest and drop out … for her to want to keep on playing football means she has drive and direction. As long as she enjoys doing it, I’m happy for her.
“It’s something we have in common. We talk about different players, watch the football together … it’s something that connects us altogether.”
Main image: Olivia Palmer with her mum, Jacey, her brother, Macen, and her father, Ben.
QRL South East
The Rees Orman City Country Cultural Exchange is all about giving young kids a chance to sample what it means to be a representative player.
While the Country teams are selected from the Outback Junior Muster, the City teams are chosen through nominations across Brisbane, rewarding players for various reasons.
For Zakeiya 'Zee' Kopa-Sullivan, Tasha Milton and Kaydence Marino-King, it’s not just their on-field performances for the Capalaba Warriors that saw them earn nominations and then selection, but their off-field attitude too.
Capalaba president Tanya Bonney said the trio made it into this year’s City under 14 girls team and, while she wishes she could have nominated everyone at the club, Zee, Tasha and Kaydence have proven themselves time and time again.
“Selection doesn’t necessarily go 100 per cent on your ability, it goes on your club spirit as well and sportsmanship,” Bonney said.
“I could have nominated a dozen people to go but the three girls that went were selected on ability, sportsmanship and club ethics.
“Zee is polite and has really good football knowledge. Kaydence is the same.
“She will always offer to lend a hand, whether it be filling the fridge or taking the rubbish out. I can’t get her to clean to the toilets yet but she’ll always offer a hand when needed.
“Tash is new to the game but she’s taken to it pretty well. It was good to give a new person the opportunity to develop herself a bit more.”
Bonney said the Cultural Exchange gives players the opportunity to not only develop their game, but to open themselves up to new experiences.
She said as the trio of girls move through the grades – particularly Tash in her first year – the experience will benefit them for years to come.
“It gets the girls out of their comfort zone,” she said.
“You get comfortable playing with the same teams each week. This gives you the option to be playing with other people of the same experience.
“Then there’s the friendships that they’ll get out of it. Two of my boys went when they were younger and they still talk to some of the kids they played with and one of my boys is 20.
“It’s about being with like-minded people that are good at what they do.”
Archer Orr went to this year’s Nate Myles Cup to have some fun.
But the Mackay Brothers Bulldogs young gun ended up walking away as the player of the carnival.
The northern tournament for under 13s teams saw 73 games of rugby league played across the weekend, and Archer stood out for his determination.
“Archer went out on the field to give 110 per cent in every game, whatever the result was,” his mother Leigh Orr said.
“He is trying to lead, to inspire the boys to play to the best of their abilities as well ... (he showed) his fitness and stamina to keep attacking and defending throughout the game and not giving up.
“It has given him a huge boost of confidence, which will hopefully inspire him to keep improving. We are super proud of him and the way he has grown as a player in the last couple of years.
“With the advice and coaching of Matt Sander and Reece Del Simone and the Brothers Bulldogs family, they have really helped bring out the best in him.”
Archer has been playing rugby league since he was seven, taking the game up after seeing kids at school sign on.
Also into fishing, motorbike riding, barefoot skiing, and working on the family’s cane farm, Archer said he loves the game, especially for the camaraderie.
“I like to play with my teammates,” Archer said.
“It gives me a great opportunity to mix with other boys from other clubs as well. I like the competitiveness and the feeling I get when I have given it my all and have a win.
“I had been looking forward to the carnival all year as I knew how much fun we always have when we get together.
“My team played well even though we didn’t come away with as many wins as we would have liked. But we enjoyed playing against all the other teams, which proved to be very strong and competitive teams.”