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'I want to be part of football history': Muir achieves rugby league dream

The story of Brandon Muir is already becoming rugby league folklore on the Sunshine Coast.

Ask anyone who attended the region’s Division 2A men’s match between Kawana Dolphins and Noosa Pirates on Sunday, July 17, what happened when Muir came onto the field and the reaction is instant.

With a smile they’ll tell you the tale of the 20-year-old, who has autism spectrum disorder and a learning disability.

They'll tell you how he ran on for his first ever game of rugby league, how he took his first hit up, and how he was driven straight into the ground by his opponent.


“Cleaned up.”

“Boom. Hit real hard.”

Brandon Muir, second from left, on the bench for Kawana. Photo: Ritchie Jarman/Infamous Photography
Brandon Muir, second from left, on the bench for Kawana. Photo: Ritchie Jarman/Infamous Photography

But, no matter how you describe it, what Muir did next is what everyone remembers best - he got to his feet, shook himself off and played on.

Everyone was in awe of Muir and his resilience, but this day was something he’d been waiting for his whole life.

He wasn’t going to let a big tackle stop him now.

“I love rugby league... I grew up with the game,” Muir said.

“I have a big football history. Footy is my passion. I want to play in the big time, like the Kawana Dolphins, Sunshine Coast Falcons, Broncos or Dolphins NRL, or like Storm, Rabbitohs, Roosters.

“Just whatever team wants me, I’d be happy to play for them. I want to play for Queensland too and Australia. It would be an honour.”

Brandon Muir in action against Noosa. Photo: Ritchie Jarman/Infamous Photography
Brandon Muir in action against Noosa. Photo: Ritchie Jarman/Infamous Photography

Muir comes from rugby league royalty.

He is the great nephew of the late Barry Muir, a Queensland and Australian legend, and the cousin of Adam Muir, a premiership winner with the Newcastle Knights.

It is no surprise then that growing up, all he wanted to do was follow in their footsteps. But with ASD, his opportunities were limited.

The dedicated Brisbane Broncos supporter dabbled in some touch football and Oztag when he was in high school, but it wasn’t until he met Paul Nichols from Happy Healthy Living that he started to make that childhood dream a reality.

Happy Healthy Living is Nichols’ own business and is designed to help people, including those with disabilities or mental health concerns, find their purpose through “movement, mindfulness and mentorship”.

Muir and Nichols connected through his case manager from high school and the Sunshine Coast’s The Board Meeting Surf Charity.

In his time with “PT Paul”, Muir has lost more than 30 kilograms, has improved his social skills, and, of course, achieved his rugby league dream.

Nichols first got Muir into Touch Rugby League so he could build up his skillset, then at the start of this year he contacted a friend at Kawana Dolphins about the possibility of Muir joining the club.


Happy birthday to Brandon Muir from all of the team at Happy Healthy Living . We hope that you are having a great day . 🎂

Posted by Happy Healthy Living on Saturday, April 30, 2022

“It was the treasurer, Matty Cohen, he is one of my best mates and I went and spoke to him,” Nichols said.

“I was able to come to the first training session with Brando and I could see how well they supported him, it was absolutely fantastic. It was a fantastic community, fantastic people.

“We had to have a few conversations to make sure it was going to be appropriate.

“With Brando, he’s really keen to play and that’s his dream and his pinnacle but his attitude is so good that you know he’ll stick with it until he gets that.

“He turned up to his first training session in pre-season. He just frothed. It was just epic. You could see the boys were going to take care of him.

“From the very first time meeting Brando, it’s always been about rugby league. That’s his number one thing, being able to play rugby league.

“Within the NDIS, he has his goals for independence and living and his health and wellbeing, but his true underlying goal in life in general is rugby league.

“He lives and breathes it. You sit down and chat with him about it, he can tell you what all the players have been up to, where they’ve played before, all that type of stuff.”

Muir with the Kawana Division 2A team. Photo: Ritchie Jarman/Infamous Photography
Muir with the Kawana Division 2A team. Photo: Ritchie Jarman/Infamous Photography

Muir joined Kawana’s Division 2A team in the pre-season in January, working towards his goal of getting actual game time.

He’s been under the watchful eye of the club coach, Andrew Hinson, who helped to teach him the basics and has monitored his progress throughout the year.

He greatly impressed at the club, not just because of his development but his attitude to training.

And this was one of the reasons why Hinson knew he was ready for his debut.

Kawana worked with Noosa on making that first game a possibility in Round 13 of this season.

It was at Kawana’s home grounds, a healthy crowd turned out to watch him, and he certainly made an impact from the very first touch.

“He’s got quite a lot to learn and I’ve said to Brandon that it’s baby steps,” Hinson said.

“We have to make sure he’s ready to play. But he’s doing all the training. Sometimes you can’t keep him away. I don’t think he’s missed a session since he’s been here.

“I wanted to try to have his first game here at home. We had to look at how the draw worked out.

“We had a conversation with Noosa and said we’re going to bring Brando on late in the game to give him a run and they were happy to work with us. It couldn’t have happened without them.

“They gave him a fair old whack but Brandon, to his credit, got up and still got involved in the game. One of our front rowers, Jacob Scott, looked after him and Noosa played their part most definitely.

“He still tells me all about. I say at training, ‘you have to take the contact’ and he goes, ‘I did’ and it’s hard to argue with him because he got whacked and got up and kept going.”

For Muir, that first contact was all part of the dream. Now, he’s ready for more.

“I was a bit nervous on that day, of course,” he said.

“I got on the field, got the first ball, and boom. Whack. I got hit in the stomach real hard. I just got up and kept playing. That was it.

“It was an honour. I want to be part of football history. I want people to know me, know my football, my family, where I come from.

“I want to keep going and be the best Muir possible. I want to have kids one day and I want them to play footy too.”

Muir’s time with the Dolphins however hasn’t been just about the on-field development, but the off-field too.

“His development has just gone in leaps and bounds,” Nichols said.

“There is a commonality in certain disabilities where social cues are limited. Since Brando’s been here, he’s been interacting freely with people who are there as his peers, as his teammates, and you can definitely see that he’s been able to pick up social cues better.

“Even in his text messaging, they are longer text messages. He’s understanding how to build those sentences and understand the relationship in that communication that is happening.

“He’s socialising with them, he’ll go have a few beers, and that’s really important to have.

“And then his self-esteem, his self-confidence, it’s through the roof. It’s been amazing to see that. There’s been a few challenges away from here that have happened but this, being able to bring his focus back to footy, it’s such a North star for him, such a guiding element.

“This is a great thing for him to have that purpose and passion for life.”

And he is also not the only one reaping the benefits from his time in the game.

Hinson said he has found himself becoming more aware of how he communicates with all his players while Nichols believes his attitude is something that rubs off on everyone around him.

“That attitude and energy, you can’t buy that or train that into people,” Nichols said.

“You can’t manufacture that at all. When it comes to enthusiasm, attitude, energy, it’s all infectious.

“What Brando may lack in physical capability out there – which he is always working on – he makes up tenfold for that in attitude and energy.

“He’s such a beautiful young man as well. He’s such a kind-hearted and sincere young fella … you can’t help but feel good about it and positive about what’s happening.”

“It’s been huge for us, the inclusion of Brando,” Hinson echoed.

“The boys love having him around and he gives as good as he gets, for sure. He’ll have a bit of a laugh. It’s been refreshing. The players have incorporated him into our rugby league community at Kawana.

“It’s like a key to a lock. He’s fit in really well. Having Brandon here, we’ve seen the love and friendship that has come out. He’s been that link to do that. It’s something new and he’s a great character.”

After making his long-awaited debut, Muir – who has been dubbed “Cobbo” around the club after making his debut on the wing, like Broncos sensation Selwyn Cobbo – has already set himself a number of goals for the future.

Kawana’s season came to an end two weeks ago in the semi-finals but Muir has plenty of faith there is grand final glory ahead.

First, he wants to get through a full pre-season heading into 2023.

Then he wants to play five-eighth. And finally, he wants to win a premiership trophy and move into the big leagues.

“What do I bring to the club? Premierships, of course,” Muir laughed.

“Winning all the premierships. No, I just want to bring positivity to the team and inspire them that we can do it, we can win a premiership.

“We need to train hard, win games, go into the grand final and win it.

“I want to play five-eighth next year because it’s the best position in my opinion because you get the ball more and can set up players. I just have to work on that really.”

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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