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A Mackay son and daughter of a former XXXX Foley Shield star will be out to represent their city and family name with pride when they run on to Barlow Park.

Keegan Irelandes is back for her second campaign as the Sea Eagles women look to go back-to-back, and this time her brother Tom will be joining her on the trip north as the men look to take the title off Townsville.

Their proud father Richard Irelandes represented Mackay in the XXXX Foley Shield in the early 1990s at junior and A grade level.

Keegan, who made her BMD Premiership debut on the wing for Mackay Cutters this year, said it meant a lot to the family.

"I think he's very proud to see us come through. He always watches our games and gives us a lot of tips and helps us out with our game. I think he loves to see it," she said.

"I don't know too much about the history of the competition but it's exciting to carry it on through with the family.

Cutters' Emily Bella and Keegan Irelandes embrace after a try. Photo: BVM Studios
Cutters' Emily Bella and Keegan Irelandes embrace after a try. Photo: BVM Studios

"It will be good to go away together (with Tom) and support each other, so I'm very exciting to watch him."

Dad Richard said it was "pretty cool" to see the kids playing XXXX Foley Shield, which was the pathway forward in his era, as part of their footy journey.

"Playing football back then it was all you wanted to be apart of," he said.

"We had Noel Croft, who played for Queensland before the Origin concept, he coached us and we won two under 19 titles.

"I was lucky enough to progress through to the A grade. We lost in a final against Cairns (30-24 in 1993), which after winning a couple of junior titles was a bit disappointing.

"My uncle (Tommy) played Foley Shield in the generation before me and played and to have two of the kids playing it's very exciting."

Richard said it was great to see Tom gain the opportunity to put his name up in lights again after needing a shoulder reconstruction, a knee reconstruction and having a recurrence of his shoulder injury over the past three seasons as he tried to carve out a career with Mackay Cutters.

Tom said his focus was on digging in for Mackay through the middle against the might of Townsville and Cairns and enjoy the experience.

"I'm sort of just getting back into it this year at local league and I've made the Foley Shield side and if I can stay injury free and play some good footy, hopefully some good opportunities come with that," he said.

Keegan, who is set to line up at fullback, said she was excited to take on some familiar rivals and expected a tough task if they're to "work some magic" against the talents on the opposing teams and go back-to-back.

"I think everyone's going to come out hard and try to play their best footy. There's a few girls that are really talented that aren't playing BMD at the moment and they're going to be tough, so we'll have to put on our best show," she said.

Emily Bella in action for Mackay Cutters against Tweed Seagulls in BMD Premiership Round 2, 2023. Photo: BVM Visuals
Emily Bella in action for Mackay Cutters against Tweed Seagulls in BMD Premiership Round 2, 2023. Photo: BVM Visuals

Keegan's teammate, 18-year-old Emily Bella, is part of the Shield defence and said it was a big moment for the family, with dad David a former Mackay great.

"It's very special. He's obviously a big part of my game and always involved in everything I do in footy, so it's pretty exciting," Bella said.

"I think it's a great opportunity to represent our clubs and community and it means something to all the players and gives us a chance to go away and the talent that exists where we're all from.

"I think it will be a good opportunity for a lot of girls to be looked at."

They won't be the only parent-child combo to have participated, with Townsville boasting a mother-daughter pair as coach and player.

Rothana Baira, who played in the first Townsville team when the XXXX Foley Shield women's competition began, is at the helm of the squad narrowly beaten to the title in 2022 and this time daughter Jahntae Mara will continue the family legacy.

"It's an excellent avenue... that allows northerners to get recognised," she said.

"It's good, I have two daughters - I'm going to coach (Jahntae) in the Foley Shield team and my oldest daughter (Lyrech) plays for Mackay Cutters, so just seeing the development and growth of the game for women in the north has been good.

"Rugby league has been such a big part of our lives and I've met many people throughout and it's good they're able to have that opportunity."

Townsville takes on Mackay on Sunday and Cairns on Monday in both men's and women's games. Mackay's teams play the hosts on Saturday night.

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Main image: Tom Irelandes playing Hastings Deering Colts in 2019

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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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