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Across all age groups, and most pleasingly among volunteers, footy in the North is in the best shape yet - and it's only going to get better.

Not only have more than 15,000 people - an astronomical number - put the boots on this year in their local community club colours, which is a celebration in itself, but we also have just about one volunteer for every three participants at just shy of 5000.

These selfless people who turn up week after week, some day after day even, are the backbone of our game and it places us in great stead to build on what we've already achieved in participation.

It is an impressive number, but we know clubs out there are still in need of more hands for all the jobs that need to be done. We can't leave it to the same people all the time.

Thankfully, there are a bundle of resources out there providing guidance for a number of roles, especially those fulfilling committee positions, so there's no need to be daunted.

I encourage those moving on from committee roles (who we whole-heartedly thank) to point people towards induction resources on the Clubhouse section of our website.

The RISE development camp on Thursday Island was a highlight for the QRL North region in 2023.
The RISE development camp on Thursday Island was a highlight for the QRL North region in 2023.

More volunteers too will help our booming female competitions thrive. The growth in this space has been outstanding, but they need every bit of support to get on the field.

It's hard to put into words all the highlights from around the region in 2023, but one big one has been the steps forward made in remote areas. 

This ranged from the return of competitions in the Northern Peninsula Area and Gulf districts, to the RISE player development camp held on Thursday Island, the Torres Strait outer islands tour and our season-opening administration conference on Thursday Island.

The Remote Areas Forum held in Cairns recently gave us a chance to reflect on 2023, acknowledging the impact rugby league has on our diverse communities, where the game is part and parcel of their identity.

We have a responsibility to give everyone across a wide cross-section of the community the opportunity to participate in our game, so to bring together around 40 administrators from remote areas together to discuss their unique challenges so we can workshop solutions and improve our offering has been vital.

While there are many challenges, our state and national winner of the Community Club of the Year - Zenadth Kes Junior Rugby League Club - is a beacon for what can be achieved when dedicated people and communities are equipped with the tools to tick all the boxes so the game can operate safely, generating wonderful social outcomes.

XXXX Community Club of the Year - Zenadth Kes Junior Rugby League

Another program that created wonderful outcomes was the All Abilities program activities held in Mackay and Townsville, culminating in matches in both cities, including one as an NRL curtain raiser at Queensland Country Bank Stadium.

Full credit to the staff who drove this, with the support of the Townsville Blackhawks and Mackay Cutters, to ensure there are opportunities for everyone to participate in our game.

I was lucky enough to be in attendance in Townsville and took my daughter along, and it was the highlight of her week as I'm sure it was for many spectators - maybe even more so than the Cowboys winning on the night!

The All Abilities match in Townsville was a real highlight.
The All Abilities match in Townsville was a real highlight.

Far North Queensland's highlight - over and above Cairns winning the XXXX Foley Shield - was undoubtedly the grand final day featuring juniors and seniors.

FNQ Rugby League should be proud as they had Barlow Park humming all day, every game was played in great spirit, and everything from the crowd was positive reinforcement for their teams. 

It's a great example of how good our game can be when we all work together and stay positive (or it's pointless!).

Another big win across the board was having the participants for all our carnival registered through My Sideline for the first time ever.

We have just one more to come in Bamaga this weekend, with the Dan Ropeyarn Cup all set to go in some warm conditions.

There are 14 men's teams and six women's teams participating in the carnival, which will just about double the population of the NPA for a few days.

In light of a successful 2023, a massive shout out goes to the people who have made it all happen - our volunteers, players, match officials, supporters and QRL staff. We look forward to seeing you again next year.

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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