What a wonderful six months of rugby league it’s been in Queensland Rugby League's South East region.
Season 2022 came to an end over this past weekend, as the last of our grand finals were held in Brisbane and on the Gold Coast.
We’ve had a whole month of grand finals in the South East, giving fans the chance to see all our players take to the field for the last time this year and the culmination of their hard work across the season.
It’s been just as great to watch the developing players as it has been watching the A grade. It’s just as exciting for everyone.
This year’s finals have had it all – dominant performances, upset victories and a definite thriller or two.
In Ipswich, we saw the underdog story of Brothers overcoming minor premiers Swifts Bluebirds 24-20 in the A grade premiership decider.
Just this weekend past in Brisbane, the West Brisbane Panthers not only celebrated a massive undefeated season in their men’s A grade competition, but we also witnessed one of the most exciting finals matches of the year, when West Brisbane’s reserve grade side claimed a 30-29 victory over the Brighton Roosters.
The game had three field goals and golden point extra time and left a lot of people on the edge of their seats.
We’ve also seen some great players take to the field, including former Gold Coast Titan Greg Bird who played in – and won – his first ever senior grand final. He captained the Southport Tigers to a commanding 40-0 win over Burleigh Bears.
And all of that is just a minor snapshot of what happened in our finals across the region.
When you actually step back and look at everything that has been achieved this year, the whole season in full, it’s quite humbling.
This year we saw the second instalment of our RISE Rugby League Development Program, which comes to an end this week for the South East with our RISE carnivals.
These carnivals will be a great opportunity for players to showcase their skills learnt through their five training sessions.
It’s a chance to play with new friends and to enjoy their experience. We want to see them continue to return to the game and to build their skill levels, if they are aspirational for that next step.
Another highlight from this year was our female participation numbers.
We had over 3000 female participants register for the first time, which was an increase of 19 per cent from last year – truly outstanding.
Mic'd up kids: SEQ under 7s play first game of tackle
Elsewhere, we saw another generation of South East under 7s kids complete their TackleReady program.
This was captured best through our mic’d up kids video and I have to say thank you not only to the Queensland Rugby League’s digital team but also two of my league and club coordinators, Liberty Jones and Jennifer Neal, as well as my Ipswich area manager Mitch Kent, who all contributed to organising the kids and parents to be available for it.
To see these kids go viral, basically for just doing what they do they do every Saturday, is pretty special.
It makes you remember why people love rugby league. They’re out there for pure enjoyment.
And finally in 2022 we also introduced the Positive Environment Program, which has been widely implemented across the South East.
We’ve already seen supporters and parents encouraging fellow spectators to be positive. We’ve seen people work to stop others from crossing the line while supporting their team.
They all want to create that better environment for everyone that attends rugby league.
If we draw the line in the sand for what’s acceptable and what’s not, that will encourage more people to be part of our game, whether it be players, volunteers or match officials.
To think this year started with floods and also with COVID at its peak, I’m so impressed to see how far we’ve come.
But, of course, none of this could be done without the people.
Volunteers like Shane Brandley, who was recently acknowledged with the Outstanding Contribution to Rugby League in Ipswich award at the seniors’ presentation night.
Not only is he the president of Rosewood but he volunteers his own time to help Rugby League Ipswich manage their events. His dedication to the game is an incredible achievement and its fitting that he was recognised for it.
Meanwhile, over at the Norths Tigers this year we saw Rita Langer celebrate 50 years of volunteering.
That’s an amazing feat and something that I imagine will be unsurpassable. We are fortunate in this region to have a couple of people who have given half a century of volunteering to our game – like Runaway Bay Seagulls’ Barbara Laskas - but really, it’s not something you see happen a lot, inside or outside of football.
Overall, I’d like to thank all the volunteers who have contributed hours upon hours of work to make sure our great game could continue in 2022.
We want to encourage as many as we can to return next year and if anyone else out there who hasn’t done it before wants to contribute to a positive experience at their club and enhance their child’s time in the game, then I highly recommend jumping on their club’s committee to help make the game stronger.
I’d also like to thank all the local leagues and boards. These people are all volunteers as well and they do a lot to represent the voices of their clubs.
It’s a herculean effort.
And last, but definitely not least, I can’t do a 2022 season wrap without thanking my team.
We ran competitions for nearly 30,000 people across the entire South East region, with Brisbane the biggest league in Australia.
That’s a huge feat.
The size and scope of this, it was no easy task and we wouldn’t have been able to do it without such dedicated people.
It’s definitely been a year’s hard work to get us to this point. All the hours from my team to make sure we had footy up and running again in an uncertain environment through floods, through COVID, it’s made me really proud to watch it all unfold.
Not only did we finish the competitions on time but we were able to produce a fantastic season and everybody was able to enjoy our great game.
That’s what it’s all about.
Thank you for a great 2022, all.
Main image: West Brisbane Panthers fullback Kyle Van Klaveren celebrates his side's BRL grand final victory. Photo: Vanessa Hafner/QRL