Mini Maroons is the weekly round-up of the amazing things kids are doing in community rugby league.
This week we are celebrating a Kingaroy referee officiating on the big stage, an Ipswich gun meeting her idol, and a Sarina try-scoring talent.
Kingaroy teenager Bridie Prendergast is still floating on air after notching up a thrilling achievement in her young officiating career.
The Kingaroy State High school captain ran the line during the inaugural Under 18 Schoolgirls clash between Queensland and a combined New South Wales/ACT side at the illustrious Suncorp Stadium in a curtain raiser to the 2022 State of Origin decider.
As a young girl who hopes to one day referee in the NRL, Bridie’s mum Sheree Prendergast said it was a dream come true for the 17-year-old.
“She’s still on cloud nine,” Prendergast said of her daughter.
“She still hasn’t come down. It meant so much to her.
“She continued to learn while she was down there and she said having the ability to mingle with the State of Origin referees afterwards was incredible.
“She and her sister (Brenna) did a BMD Premiership game back in May at Cbus Stadium but this certainly took the cake.
“It was a big stadium and platform. She’s still buzzing.”
Bridie originally took up officiating almost four years ago after she moved away from playing the game due to limited pathways for girls at the time.
She still went to the football plenty, along with Brenna, 20, and their brother Fletch, 16, and the two sisters decided to give back to the game through refereeing.
Brenna was the standby match official for the Schoolgirls match and Prendergast said she thinks they have both been rewarded for their commitment to the game, especially since the Kingaroy-based duo travel once a week to the Sunshine Coast to be part of the High Performance Unit.
“It’s their commitment to being match officials and their eagerness and willingness to learn,” Prendergast said.
“They’re always taking on their feedback and are doing constant training.
“It’s awesome to see them so passionate about something and getting the reward. Bridie is trying to work out what next year looks like. She really wants to go down that pathway of being a fulltime NRL match official.”
QRL South East
Kadia Woodley hasn’t been playing rugby league long, but she has already found an idol to keep her motivated.
The Swifts Bluebirds under 8s youngster took up the game this year and as she found her way around the grounds, she was immediately drawn to A grade fullback sensation, Godfrey Okot.
Swifts juniors president Vickie Ison recently helped organise a meeting between the pair and Kadia’s mum, Tamara Woodley, said the eight-year-old is going from strength-to-strength as she continues to be inspired by him.
“Kadia is new to football so Godfrey really stood out for her,” Woodley said.
“He just has that vibe about him and he plays with the kids and has a chat to them … he’s always noticed because he’s a great football player. Everyone talks about Godfrey. He comes out to the training sessions and helps out as well. She just idolises him.
“One day when she first started playing I said, ‘Kadia let’s tuck your shirt in.’
“She said, ‘I don’t want to because Godfrey doesn’t.’
“Because Godfrey is very fast and he usually makes a lot of breaks, she wants to be like that. Kadia is quite fast as well.”
While she only took up the game this year, she has been around it her whole life with her dad a massive Broncos fan as well as the wellbeing officer and first aid officer for the Swifts. Woodley also volunteers in the can bar.
After her first few months in the game, Woodley said Kadia is “absolutely loving” her rugby league and her favourite part is definitely scoring tries.
“She has scored a few this season and I think being part of the team, learning the skills, has been really good for her,” Woodley said.
“I’ve heard now that she’s been able to say to teammates to spread out and is learning to hold the ball when she gets tackled.
“She’s finding her feet and is getting better and better each time.”
Like Reuben Cotter in Game 1 of State of Origin, Linkin Simpson was an absolute standout for the Sarina Crocs at this year’s Jason Hetherington Gary Larson Cup.
Channelling his favourite NRL player, Linkin scored eight tries in nine games, picked up three man of the match awards, and was crowned Sarina’s player of the carnival.
His dad and coach, Matt Simpson, said sometimes his 12-year-old can miss out on accolades being the coach’s son but his JHGL performance was noticed by the other parents and given due recognition.
“He plays at 110 per cent in every game and really puts a huge effort in every game,” Simpson said of his son.
“It’s just his commitment. He knew when times were getting tough, he had to step up. We made him the captain for that weekend and he just really stood up to the challenge.
“If anything bad happened, he was the first one to cheer the boys up and get us going again.
“Every time he got the ball, he was very dangerous.
“He loves to play like Reuben Cotter. That’s his idol. He comes from Sarina too and he played Origin so he just wants to be Reuben. He even had the haircut.”
Linkin is so enthusiastic about his football that he’s often forced to put the footy down and come inside for dinner most nights.
Simpson said he often signs Linkin and his teammates up for as many carnivals as possible so their experiences in rugby league are varied and he was extremely proud of the way his son responded in the club’s latest outing.
He said he hopes this support will one day help him achieve his dreams.
“We try to get to as many carnivals as possible,” Simpson said.
“It’s good for the kids to play against different areas and different teams and get that exposure against talented players.
“I couldn’t prouder as a father of Linkin. As a coach, I see him an asset, that I have a kid in my team who strives to be the best he can be.
“I’ve always said I’ll back him 100 per cent. He does want to play NRL but there’s 30,000 other kids that do too so I just want to back him to get his dream. That’s why I try to get him in every carnival I can.”