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Max Kirkbright in a Hostplus Cup trial with the Sunshine Coast Falcons. Photo: Rikki-Lee Arnold/QRL

Max Kirkbright always knew he wanted to return to Australia.

The 19-year-old came over from the United Kingdom when he was in grade 11 on an exchange, playing rugby league in Mackay for six weeks.

He instantly fell in love with the lifestyle, culture and the way the game is played in Australia, and knew he would be back.

And while his long-awaited return this year didn’t go to plan with three delayed flights, one cancelled flight and a lost suitcase, Kirkbright is feeling right at home on the Sunshine Coast.

The outside back has signed with the Falcons for season 2023, expecting to play mostly with the Hastings Deering Colts but with a sharp eye on a Hostplus Cup debut.

But he said no matter what level he plays at, he wants to make the most of his time in an Australian system.

Max Kirkbright in a Hostplus Cup trial with the Sunshine Coast Falcons. Photo: Rikki-Lee Arnold/QRL
Max Kirkbright in a Hostplus Cup trial with the Sunshine Coast Falcons. Photo: Rikki-Lee Arnold/QRL

“It’s how much people over here live and breathe it,” he said of Australian rugby league.

“It’s everything from the lifestyle to the culture. It’s a lot different to England. I came over to Mackay perhaps four years ago and ever since I came over, I’ve loved it.

“I’ve always wanted to come back for the culture and the standard of rugby league over here as well. I can learn a lot from it.

“Everyone I bump into over here, it’s all about league, league, league.

“Playing in an Australian comp, it’s more about the mindset than anything else. Aussies are renowned to be tough as nails, not just physically but mentally as well.”

Kirkbright started playing rugby league at the age of six with Lock Lane in Castleford, following in the footsteps of his dad and grandfather who played the game.

He stayed there until under 15s when he got a scholarship at Castleford Tigers.

His time there was short-lived and he returned to Lock Lane before another opportunity arose with the Yorkshire community team.

He also came to Australia in this time on his exchange between his school, Castleford Academy, and Mackay State High School.

Kirkbright represented the England Lions Under 16s and 17s and then was selected into the Hull KR Academy, where he played for two years, captaining in his second season.

He trained with the first team after graduating from the Academy, but didn’t make a debut before his move to Australia.

Since joining the Falcons, Kirkbright has played six games including Hostplus Cup trials, Hastings Deering Colts trials and some A grade games with Coolum Colts.

While he’s still building up his fitness and adjusting to the Queensland heat, Kirkbright is loving his time at the Falcons and is determined to make his mark in 2023.

“The physicality is another huge step up across all levels, but I feel like game-on-game we’re improving and getting better with it,” he said of his form.

“I’m excited for the season to start with the (Hastings Deering Colts) 21s. I’m hoping to have a good year this year and make a difference and see what progression that can take.

“I’m excited for the challenge and playing alongside a good bunch of lads. Being only 19, I have plenty of chance to develop and I think this is a good chance.

“Making my Cup debut is still the goal … this is a stepping stone, we can call it. I just have to work hard with the Colts and show (Cup coach Brad Henderson) that I’m hot on the heels of the starting 13 boys and am ready to be up there with them.

“There’s some brilliant talent in the Cup and boys who will no doubt make the NRL, so playing alongside those boys will hopefully bring me to their level.

“It’s starting to cool down too which might hopefully make the weather a bit more bearable for 80 minutes to an Englishman.

“The best sort of rugby league is NRL. It’s every English lad’s aspiration to have a crack at it.

“If everything goes well and I knuckle down, I know I could be in with a chance.”

The Hastings Deering Colts 2023 season will kick off on Saturday, April 22, with the Falcons to play their first match against the Souths Logan Magpies on Sunday, April 23 at Sunshine Coast Stadium from 12.15pm. 

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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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