Each year, Hostplus Cup clubs get behind ‘Activate! Queensland’ Country Week, getting out and about in the host towns to help celebrate the people and communities who help make the game of rugby league great.
In Thursday Island, members of the Northern Pride staff and players from both the Hostplus Cup and Harvey Norman Under 19 squads headed out a week early to take part in school clinics and community visits.
Bernard Lewis – who is currently recovering from a broken finger – said it was a special initiative that he was keen to support.
“I just came as a player representative, I put my hand up because they were looking for players who had time off and I ended up letting them know straight away that I wanted to volunteer to come up," Lewis said.
“We did some clinics and ran a few games (one where) you run around in a circle and talk about each other’s clan and their totems as well.
“I am from Badu and Boigu Island, this is my first time heading to the outer islands, I love it.
“I met new family on every island too, and family I haven’t seen in ages, especially Saibai Island, seeing all my nieces and nephews I haven’t met before, so that was amazing.”
Souths Logan Magpies fullback Tristan Sailor has been firing on the field for his team and proved a popular player in Round 16, with the crowd cheering each kick return and towering bomb.
Sailor, who also has family background in the region, joined his captain Christian Hazard, coach Steve Bretherton and head of football Mark Beaumont to take part in the pre-game day activities.
“We flew in Wednesday and got the ferry across – I am from the Torres Strait, but I have never been up here, so it was amazing to see the water and the islands and meet some of the locals,” Sailor said.
“We then came across and did some school visits on the Thursday, went to the primary school there for about three hours … it was awesome to see the smiles of their faces; even though we are not NRL guys, we are just Cup guys and they were so happy to see us and to get all the posters and prizes.
“We did a radio interview which was pretty cool as well.”
For Sailor, the opportunity to travel to regional and remote towns and share some top-level rugby league was an important one as it also helped show young players how far they could go.
“Definitely, I think that’s our goal … we just want to put on the best game of footy possible,” Sailor said.
“It’s been evident in the schools when we have been doing drills with the kids (that) they are super talented athletically and it’s just about development and learning the game.
'It was a really great experience' - Sailor
“At the primary schools to be honest, the girls were amazing; you see so much talent here; one of the girls said she’s going to play NRLW when she is older, so what is really important is showing that really high quality footy and helping them grow and develop and having a goal to maintain.
“I think it’s super important (to head out to the regions), I mean, you barely get out here – I wouldn’t have come out here (to Thursday Island) without Country Round.
“It’s my first one, but I have heard some stories about some other Country Week rounds and it’s nice just to see the different parts of Queensland.
“You don’t really get this without the help of the QRL and the state government because if there was a national reserve grade, this wouldn’t be possible I guess, so it’s really good.”
After spending more time in the region, Lewis also hoped more visits could be made to remote areas like Thursday Island and surrounding communities.
“Hopefully, we do this every year, it’s good for the community,” Lewis said.
“They do love it, they love rugby league, especially for the younger generations coming through, they will be inspired by the players.
“It’s important to give back to the community.”