Some of the fondest memories of Annette Brander’s illustrious rugby league career happened at the XXXX 47th Battalion carnival and she's certain there’s still plenty of talent set to filter into growing elite pathways.
The Jillaroos and three-time Harvey Norman Queensland Maroons representative was in her second year of rugby league when she first appeared as an 18-year-old in 2011.
Brander played for Beerwah Bulldogs in those early days before her career blossomed, before pulling on the Sunshine Coast jersey at the 2019 carnival.
“It was really exciting (in 2011) because it was my first real footy trip away, so it was really cool to see all the different teams and how many girls were playing regionally, and it was something we didn’t get to see that often being closer to Brisbane,” the Sunshine Coast product said.
“It was interesting to talk to a lot of those girls and hear about how far they had to travel and it was a bit of an insight. I don’t complain about travelling half an hour anymore when some of them had to travel two hours to get to training to be able to play in the competition.
“I remember Tegan Rolfe, I played against her. I think she played for Central Highlands. I remember coming into it everyone saying she was quite good and then I got to play Queensland with her in 2015.
“I was quite young so I was a bit in awe of everyone and it felt like everyone was so much bigger and more experienced, so it was cool to see how everyone conducted themselves and it definitely shaped my career.
“I think a lot of girls wouldn’t have had the opportunity to be seen if they didn’t play in the 47th Battalion and on to Central Queensland at the nationals. When I played it was the only real pathway through.”
Brander expected there would be plenty of players talented enough for BMD Premiership lining up in Emerald this weekend in the six-team women’s competition.
“I think there’s definitely a lot of players who haven’t been picked up who are at the level of BMD at places like the Capras, who I got to play for last year,” Brander said.
“One of the main reasons I went to the Capras was I knew a lot of the girls there from 47th Battalion and Queensland and I had such a good time with them.
"It’s important for girls coming through to know there’s a lot of players out there who have made representative teams (from central Queensland) that have made a lot of sacrifices and worked really hard even to get to training.”
Central Queensland Capras BMD Premiership coach Amanda Ohl will be making the dash to Emerald for the final day, with the carnival firmly on her radar to scout those hidden talents.
Tamika Upton played her first senior game of rugby league at the XXXX 47th Battalion carnival, while the likes of Brander, Sarah Walker and Chelsea Baker were all “found” at the competition – and it could uncover the next superstar.
“I know when I do my recruitment I go to the 47th to watch as a BMD coach. It’s probably still hidden,” Ohl said.
“When the Sunshine Coast and Toowoomba get into BMD I’m sure they will watching it as well, and hopefully we’ll have three BMD teams in the (Central) division.
“Toowoomba has always been strong in the women’s and took it out the last two years and Sunshine Coast have probably got their name on the (XXXX 47th Battalion) trophy the most.
“It’s a step up from local league so if you want to make it you definitely want to show your wares at the 47th so it’s a good stage to shine on.”