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'Felt like I could run through a brick wall': First semi-pro day hits the mark

Speakers at the southern Queensland semi-pro day have left players ready to “run through a brick wall”, as they ramp up their preparations for season 2024.

On Sunday, November 26, more than 450 players and staff from southern Hostplus Cup and BMD Premiership clubs – from the Sunshine Coast Falcons down to Tweed Seagulls, and as far out as the Western Clydesdales – came together to not only complete their mandatory education, but learn about resilience, making the most of their opportunities and the importance of cultural connection.

It was also a chance to bond with teammates new and old and see each other away from the field.

For new Norths Devils recruit Jack ‘Nugget’ Johnson, who has moved south from the Townsville Blackhawks, it was an eye-opening experience.

The young forward was nominated to take part in the theatre sports segment of the day – a surprise to him – and found it to be one of the most entertaining sessions.

Johnson takes part in a Theatre Sports session. Photo: Rikki-Lee Arnold/QRL
Johnson takes part in a Theatre Sports session. Photo: Rikki-Lee Arnold/QRL

“It was awesome... I didn’t really expect it to have as many high-quality and cool speakers as it did,” he said.

“I thought to finish with the acting group, it was really awesome. It was a great twist to highlight and teach us about some of the difficult situations you can be put in. It was such a fun and completely different way to look at it.

“We’ve had those conversations before, but it’s been a lot more formal and more ‘dos and don’ts’, so to have a bit of fun and be in those mock situations where you knew no one was unsafe, it let you see it and experience without repercussions.

“Sitting within the exercise, listening to the comments and watching the actions, it’s definitely something you’ve potentially seen before but because it was an uncomfortable environment, you’re really attuned to it.”

Johnson also found the information session from Sports Integrity Australia of value and enjoyed hearing from Queensland Rugby League CEO Ben Ikin, who shared some of his own experiences from his time as a player.

But the highlight for the 23-year-old was the presentation on self-care and resilience from disability advocate and inspirational speaker, John Coutis.

Coutis shared his own experiences from growing up with a severe physical disability and delivered one of the most powerful sessions of the day.

“John on his chat about his resilience, I thought it was phenomenal,” Johnson said.

“I know myself, I felt like I could run through a brick wall after it. It was really, really inspiring.

“My parents all my life have always tried to instil the mentality that someone has it tougher. It’s something you definitely do take for granted, that thought.

“Seeing how much he’s had to face throughout his life and the resilience he’s had to show to get to where he is, it’s just inspiring. There’s no other way to describe it.

“Even his attitude - such a ‘grip it and rip it’ attitude - nothing holds him back and he has such a great sense of humour. When you think of all the things he’s faced, to come out the other side such a happy fella, it’s really inspiring to see.”

John Coutis with the Hostplus Cup and BMD Premiership squads.
John Coutis with the Hostplus Cup and BMD Premiership squads.

Wynnum Manly Seagulls winger Emily Bass was also left inspired by Coutis, labelling his talk as her own personal highlight as well.

The Harvey Norman Queensland Maroons star did not know what to expect from the event, which featured BMD Premiership squads for the first time.

She said given it was a mandatory education day, she expected to mostly be hit with information, but was surprised by the guest speakers.

“John spoke a lot to us and the message that he got across was really important about opportunity and if an opportunity does come to a player, to take it with two hands and don’t look back,” she said.

“I think he spoke really well and his whole life and the hardships that he’s faced, it was really important to listen to that.”

Wynnum Manly Seagulls teammates Sienna Lofipo and Destiny Mino-Sinapati. Photo: Rikki-Lee Arnold/QRL
Wynnum Manly Seagulls teammates Sienna Lofipo and Destiny Mino-Sinapati. Photo: Rikki-Lee Arnold/QRL

For Bass it was also the perfect opportunity to catch up with her teammates away from the field, as they prepare to back up a strong 2023 that saw them finish as grand finalists.

“It’s good to connect with other players from other teams, your mates,” she said.

“But to be with your team as well, you don’t really get many opportunities other than training camps, so it’s really important to spend time with them to get connection.”

Two more semi-pro days will be delivered to the northern Hostplus Cup and BMD Premiership squads next month, with the first to be held in Mackay on Saturday, December 9, and the final event to occur in Townsville on Sunday, December 10.

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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