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'A million dollars': How Queensland Outback made Hayley's dreams come true

The powerful impact rugby league players can have on the next generation should never be underestimated.

This was certainly the case for young Roma girl Hayley Radunz, when the Queensland Outback women's team came to town for their annual clash with North Queensland United at the weekend.

The eight-year-old only very recently took up rugby league, after she moved from Brisbane to Roma and chose to play with her cousin Billy for the Roma Saints.

She had played just one game and was yet to experience a training session due to cancellations, when the NRL held a female participation event in the town on Friday, July 22, as part of the Hostplus Cup’s 'Activate Queensland!' Country Week round and the arrival of the Queensland Outback and North Queensland United teams.

Hayley was one of only two young girls to attend the clinic and it was there where she first met the Queensland Outback women’s team.

Hayley Radunz on the sideline of the QLD Outback v NQ United game. Photo: Jorja Brinums/QRL
Hayley Radunz on the sideline of the QLD Outback v NQ United game. Photo: Jorja Brinums/QRL

“She had never played football before she moved here, but she decided she wanted to have a go,” Hayley’s grandmother, Terri Radunz, said.

“When the Outback girls were here they ran a coaching clinic for girls only. We thought we’d take her along and there was only her and one other girl.

“She immediately fell in love with the Outback girls. Then, after the girls’ coaching clinic, there was one open to all ages, boys and girls. So she stayed on for that but the women left.”

It was later that night when Radunz realised the impact the Queensland Outback team had on her granddaughter.

She was upset because she had missed saying goodbye to the team.

Hayley front and centre with the teams. Photo: Jorja Brinums/QRL
Hayley front and centre with the teams. Photo: Jorja Brinums/QRL

But as luck would have it, Radunz manages Café 54 in Roma, which was doing the catering for the teams, and the very next day she ran into women’s manager, Charmain Acton, at the team motel.

“Hayley had told her grandmother that she didn’t get to say goodbye to her new friends,” Acton said.

“Later on the Saturday morning there was a street parade and Hayley was there to walk with the Roma Saints. I happened to spot Hayley’s grandmother in the crowd and I asked her to introduce me to Hayley.

“After thinking about what Terri had told me earlier that morning I invited Hayley to walk with the Outback ladies in the street parade.

“Without a hesitation she excitedly replied, ‘yes’.  

“I didn’t get to see the look on her face when she was walking down the street with the girls, but I’m pretty sure she smiled the whole way.”

What followed was a dream for young Hayley.

The women’s Outback team immediately took the youngster under their wing and made the weekend one she would never forget.

As they took part in the march, Hayley told the team she had her second ever game of rugby league later that day.

Hayley helping to lead QLD Outback out onto the field. Photo: Jorja Brinums/QRL
Hayley helping to lead QLD Outback out onto the field. Photo: Jorja Brinums/QRL

Keen to support their newest fan, the women then went out of their way to get to the game.

“We were getting ready to play and then Charmain rang me to find out which field Hayley was on,” Radunz said.

“It turns out they’d gone to the field across the road so we got them to hold off the game for a few minutes and then the bus turns up and all the women, they come running off the bus and formed a tunnel for her.

“All of that for her very second game of football. Now her goal is she is going to play in the Queensland Outback side one day.

“From two games of footy, still no training sessions, to wanting this. It was just amazing for her. I have no words for what it meant to her.

“It all made her day. She thought she was a million dollars. You couldn’t get the smile off her face in the march.”

And it wasn’t over for Hayley just yet.

On the Saturday night, the Queensland Outback trainer came to Acton with the idea of inviting Hayley to be the team’s kicking tee girl in their representative showdown with North Queensland United on Sunday.

The right permission was sought from the league, Acton messaged Radunz and the next day, Hayley was there bright and early ready for her all-important duty.

“The ladies hit the sheds and Reeghyn Beardmore got out her shirt and gave it to Hayley to wear,” Acton said.

“I announced to the team that Hayley would be joining us as the kicking tee person for our game and there were cheers all around. One of the girls had brought ribbon for everyone to put in their hair and they included Hayley in this as well. 

“I asked Hayley to join us in the team photo as well. When it was time to run out for the game, there was Hayley with our captain Kailah Kinsey, front and centre with a smile as big as the moon on her face.”

Radunz said her granddaughter - who also has a cousin, Sophie Spinks, in the Under 17 girls' Outback team - is “still on cloud nine” but she realised again on Monday night how much the whole experience meant to her, after she found Hayley crying in the bathroom because she missed the team.

With the help of Acton, a number of players are now messaging Hayley and checking in with her, and Roma-based Brittney Smith is giving her lots of encouragement, with the likelihood they will meet up again soon.

Radunz said the experience had changed Hayley’s whole outlook on rugby league.

"They’re a beautiful bunch,” Radunz said.

“I think for her, her vision with rugby league was that she just going to play with the boys. Here in Roma, after under 12s there’s a big gap for girls. So for her it was just, ‘I’ll play with the boys’.

“To see a whole team of girls and they’re braiding her hair and making her part of the team, this is pretty cool.

“I really, honestly don’t think the conversation about that weekend is going to stop for a long time. I can’t imagine her not playing now. It’s not going to stop anytime soon, that’s for sure.”

And it wasn’t just Hayley this weekend had an impact on.

Acton said she had been part of Queensland Outback teams for a long time now and this was one year that would stick with her for a while, thanks to Hayley and the players.

“I love being part of an Outback squad and enjoy being a manager and seeing players make it to this rep level,” Acton said.

“But to then see players embrace the activities and to show inclusion and participation to future young players, it just melts my heart and gives me goosebumps.

“I hope that if I am involved in 10 years’ time that this young lady has made her way through the ranks and she becomes part of the Queensland Outback women's squad. What an epic story that would be.”

Acknowledgement of Country

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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