Pine Central Holy Spirit stalwart Ana Fotu is committed to helping young women and girls become better players and people.
Fotu’s holistic approach to development, combined with her energy and organisational skills where she just gets things done, has seen the club prosper in recent times with two under 12s, two under 14s, two under 16s, and an under 18s and an open women’s outfit.
Her work as the club’s female development officer has been well received and acknowledged and has seen her take out the Queensland Rugby League's Harvey Norman Female Contribution Award for the month of June.
Fotu is one of those volunteers, the lifeblood of the game, who is always looking to go to the next level on behalf of the players and families that embrace rugby league.
That was in evidence recently when she organised a development day where 60 girls signed up and Maroons stars were on hand.
“We had Amy Turner and Karina Brown come down and have a chat to them all. The day was from under 12s up to open women’s,” Fotu said.
“For all the grades we had a nutrition session and a gym session with a personal trainer taking them through a gym session. We had a speed and skill.
“We wanted the girls to get a feel for the attributes that contribute to the skill side of things when it comes to league.”
The club provided lunch for the girls, via sponsorship, on a day where Turner and Brown played a key role.
“Karina and Amy spoke about their struggles and how they got past them,” she said.
“They also spoke about nutrition and I have had feedback from the parents saying the girls are thinking about what they are consuming before games, which is fantastic.
“It is something I always wanted to do. My workplace allows us a volunteer day so I took that day and organised it.
“A big thing for me as a mum and parent, and I know a thing a lot of parents think about this as well, was that we had Karina and Amy touch on finding a balance.
“We asked the girls to put up their hands if they were putting more time into their league than their schooling, and the majority did. Amy and Karina made them understand that they need to balance it and make sure they have something to fall back on.
“It was good to hear it from people the girls look up to.”
Fotu - also the club vice-president, open women’s player and under 16s coach - understands well that the lifeblood of the game is in the club’s care and she takes the role seriously.
“Our juniors is our main thing. We know that if we get it right they will represent us through our pathways," she said.
“We are very proud of our girls. We asked Karina [Brown] to address a few questions on team culture and she was very good. For us at Pine Central, team culture is about family. Everyone knows their roles and no one wants to let any of their family members down That is how we see it.”
Fotu said the expansion of the NRLW competition and the opening up of more opportunities and viable pathways to the top was assisting in the recruitment of young girls at the grassroots level.
Girls want to test themselves and become better athletes in an environment that challenges them, with league providing the perfect avenue.
“It is really exciting,” Fotu said.
“I came from rugby union and league is much faster than union and that is where I am seeing a lot of girls coming over to league. There are so many different pathways.
“It is not just with the club side of things either. For example, we had the inaugural Queensland Schoolgirls under 18s team playing before the Origin which is great.”
To nominate a volunteer or club for the QRL's monthly community awards, click here. All nominations will close on Friday, July 29.
Main image: Charlie-Rose Fotu, Toni-Lee Fotu, Tony Fotu, Karina Brown, Amy Turner and Ana Fotu. Photo: V2uua Photography