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Emerging girls thriving in Future Maroons Academy

Emerging elite female talents across Queensland are becoming better athletes on and off the field midway through the inaugural Future Maroons Academy. 

The Academy is designed to enable players to access the state’s best coaches and resources without needing to fly into camps.

Harvey Norman Queensland Maroons coach Tahnee Norris said the young players involved showed they were eager to learn, and energised at the expansion of the Harvey Norman Under 19 competition to six games per team, plus finals, in 2023. 

The third round of sessions involving more than 300 players, coaches and support staff set to be involved in the Harvey Norman Under 19 competition began this week, with Norris and team hitting the road to equip players with the skills to succeed on the representative pathway. 

After learning about tackle technique and ground work during the second round of sessions across the past fortnight, the Academy sessions during the next two weeks will address defensive structure and a rules component involving Queensland’s own full-time NRL referee Belinda Sharpe. 

“We do a mixture of on-field and off-field components,” Norris said.

“Off the field it’s just about nutrition, physical performance, recovery, wellbeing and even breast health that we go through.

"And the on-field component is all the football content around tackle technique, simple ball handling and more about what they haven’t seen in their areas before... along the same lines as what we’re trying to teach in rep programs from Maroons down to under 19s and under 17s.

“The stuff they’re doing now around ground work and tackle escapes, you can really see the benefit of that and we’re hoping that translates into the Harvey Norman Under 19s next year.

“Now that the girls can play all the way through from 12 to 18, the skill sets of the players is a lot stronger and you really see that transfer into their competitions now... so being able to offer a longer competition for the Harvey Norman Under 19s will help these girls out.” 

Norris said she was particularly proud of offering the program directly in regional centres, allowing players in those areas to follow in the footsteps of country trailblazers Tamika Upton (Rockhampton), Renae Kunst (Mackay), Steph Hancock (Killarney) and Heather Ballinger (Longreach/Cairns). 

“We’ve had so many players come through from country Queensland who have actually represented Queensland," Norris said.

"So to be able to go out and see them at this age group, to see the crop of players coming through and just let the girls know you don’t have to move into a city area to take that next step to play representative footy.

"I think that’s important, so they know they can stay in their regions, come through the Harvey Norman Under 19 competition and be seen through that and hopefully take that step up to Queensland Under 19s."

The three-hour Academy sessions take place in Brisbane, Toowoomba and at the Sunshine Coast this week, before returning to Rockhampton, Mackay, Townsville and Cairns next week.

A fourth and final round of Academy sessions will start in in January. 

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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