More than 350 juniors converged on the Capricorn Coast over the weekend for the 2019 Central Queensland Rugby Muster.
St Brendan’s College, Yeppoon, hosted the young hopefuls and their families for two days of selection trials, after which Central Queensland representative squads were named for July’s junior state championships in Toowoomba.
Under 13, under 14 and under 16 ‘Bushranger’ squads will head south to represent their region and push for state selection, and an under 12 development squad was also named.
Queensland Rugby Union Regional Development Manager, Matt Cullen, said juniors from the four sub unions of Mackay and Districts, Central Highlands, Bundaberg and Gladstone and Rockhampton gathered on Yeppoon for matches over May 4 and 5.
“One of the biggest barriers we find in country Queensland is the further we go west, the more limited the opportunities the children have of - not so much participating - but playing in a competitive environment,” Cullen said.
“That’s what this muster caters for; any talented young players out there who aren’t getting the opportunity can come in and impress here, and a lot of them do.
“You get your kids coming in from out west there who have grown up on the farms, and they’re very robust, tough little players, and it’s a real highlight for those kids to get the opportunity to show they can really compete.”
St Brendan’s offered their impressive facilities for cost price to the visiting rugby families, while Yeppoon-based Cap Coast Crocs supported the event with volunteers, tents and the crucial canteen and coffee.
“It’s still a country feel here, as opposed to something held in Brisbane, and the locals are very accomodating, friendly and positive,” Cullen said.
“We wouldn’t hold this event if it wasn’t for the volunteers and the parents, but they give their time through their passion for the game.
“We’ve had the girls playing on Saturday, as well, and some parents have three of four kids in the family participating.”
Heidi Wilson and son Jordan rose at 3am in Emerald on Saturday to make it to Yeppoon on time for his first match for the under 16 Central Highlands squad.
“We play in Emerald as much as we can, unfortunately there’s not a lot for the older age groups in our area, it’s very tough,” Wilson said.
“We’ll travel anywhere, just to play the game they love. We’ve got an awesome group of people out there, and awesome coach Papa Hartley who puts his heart and soul into it.
“Three-and-a-half hours is nothing - we’ll support the Bushrangers because there’s just not enough rugby up here for these kids.”
Wilson, who also ended up managing the team over the weekend, has just taken on a butcher’s apprenticeship at the age of 37 and said the muster provides a crucial development pathway for kids in regional areas who don’t go away to boarding school in their teenage years.
“It’s also important because kids get to this age and destructive influences start to come in, they can drop out of sport then they’re doing nothing,” she said.
“Jordan also has a job to support his rugby, he works at a caravan park doing all the gardening and lawns, and he also volunteers at the racecourse helping out after race days.
“I took on the new job because wanted to prove to my kids that you’re never too old to learn a trade and give anything a go.”
Lincoln Job, an Emerald cattle farmer and coach of the Central Highlands under 13s, was another grateful for the opportunity provided by the muster.
“The kids have had a great weekend, like a lot of country places the biggest thing that we need is competition,” he said.
“We’ve got a lot of keen kids playing out there, but these weekends are really good because it gives them a taste of rep rugby, and they gave a great account of themselves.
“In Emerald we’d have kids in over a 200km radius who come to be involved, and we’re just trying to get the kids rugby, get them to enjoy it.
“There’s other sports where we are, but rugby’s real strength is that there’s a place for all shapes and sizes, and I don’t think it’s something we promote enough as a game.
“That tall, skinny kid….. the smile on their face when they take their first line out, and the front rowers that love scrums, it’s something we’ve got in our game that we need to keep.”