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Patrice Brown with her sons, Doug (left) and Henry (right).

In Dysart they call Patrice Brown “the football lady” and it is with good reason.

The club president of Dysart Junior Rugby League loves the game, is passionate about the Dysart Bulls, and is the beating heart of rugby league in the town she calls home.

Brown has had executive roles at the Dysart club over the last nine years. She was treasurer for several years and has been president since then.

The winner of Queensland Rugby League's Shell V-Power Volunteer award for the month of June, she is also a qualified coach and trainer who organises canteen for game day, cleans the clubhouse ahead of game days and sets up for home games. There’s nothing she doesn’t do.

Brown has an eye on the future and the present which is why she introduced the Poddy Calves program for four-year-olds to get them ready to take the next step.

Patrice Brown with her sons, Doug (left) and Henry (right).
Patrice Brown with her sons, Doug (left) and Henry (right).

“It is a program I brought in for the kids that aren’t quite old enough to play,” Brown said.

“We do basic skills in a six-week program with passing and catching. It gets them used to the club and being on the field around older kids so it is not so daunting when they start in the sixes. It goes really well.”

Patrice’s son Henry plays under 13s and her oldest son Doug plays 19s and seniors for the club.

She recently drove trucks for three years and is now employed at the local high school where she works in career pathways and helps students find a pathway beyond their school days. She is also studying business, while still putting in 25 hours-plus per week in her volunteer role at the Dysart Bulls.

“We do a lot but we do it because we love it,” Brown said.

“My sons play and there is not a lot for the kids to do here. If you don’t make it happen then it is something that can fall by the wayside. I just love football. I’ve grown up with football. I couldn’t wait to have sons to play football. We just eat, live and breathe it.

“We live in a small town and everyone knows who you are, but they all refer to me as ‘the football lady’.

"I am very passionate about the youth in Dysart and I am also the pathways officer at the high school so I am very invested in the towns and kids. It is a great town.”

Brown came up with an idea, which had “always been a dream”, to organise a rodeo last year to raise funds for the Dysart club with a stunning 1500 people coming through the gates. 

At the end of a COVID-ravaged 2020, the club was short on funds, but the rodeo has replenished the financial stocks.

“My husband was a bull rider when we first met. I always wanted to have a rodeo because I think it is a great event to bring communities together that have been affected by droughts, floods and COVID,” Brown said.

“The town here really needed an event. I can’t believe it came together the way it did. It was a cracker. It brought the town together and everyone loved it. Next day we were cleaning up and everyone said, ‘Are we doing it next year?’…and we are.”

Patrice promoting last year's rodeo fundraiser.
Patrice promoting last year's rodeo fundraiser.

There is a lot of driving on weekends with the juniors going in different directions depending what rural team they are playing. Patrice, like many parents, fills any spare seats she has and away she goes.

The Bulls have boys teams in the under 6s, under 7s, under 9s, under 11s and under 13s, but lost 15s and 17s this year due to the struggle small towns are finding to get players in those age groups. Other clubs in the region are also finding it an uphill battle.

Dysart is a mining town and the population is in flux, which can make it tough to retain players. Volunteers like Patrice Brown are vital to keeping the game alive.

“We really do try,” Brown said.

“The last thing we need in our town is for the junior league club to fold.”

The Central Queensland region has produced some of the greatest players to lace a boot. Current Maroons stars Cameron Munster, Ben Hunt, Harry Grant and Corey Oates all hail from the region, with Dysart the junior club of Queensland legend Matt Sing.

The Dysart Bulls club motto is "a little bull goes a long way".

“It is just that little bit of belief in yourself,” Brown said.

“We always believe in the Maroon jersey and we always believe in our little Bulls. There is nothing they can’t do if they want to.”

To nominate a volunteer or club for the QRL's monthly community awards, click here. All nominations will close on Friday, July 29.

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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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