Contributed by: Wesley Hull
The kids came from everywhere, seemingly. From Gladstone to the south of Rockhampton, north to the Torres Strait and scattered inland towns and cities, school teams descended on the Barrier Reef Arena at Harrup Park in Mackay, North Queensland. It was a showcase of school talent – the North Queensland championships of the Queensland Schools Cup.
Queensland footy continues to grow – at grass roots and the highest level. The Brisbane Lions’ win over Geelong this weekend saw them go to the top of the AFL ladder with a round to go before finals. The Gold Coast Suns have had a horrid season, yet they boast four Cairns players in Jack Bowes, Jarrod Harbrow, Jacob Heron and Caleb Graham.
Next season, the AFLW will feature Cairns’ women Elisha King (North Melbourne) and Kitara Farrar-Whap (Gold Coast).
However, the championships played last week in Mackay featured the future beyond those players already mentioned. Amongst the teams of primary and secondary aged students who took the fields last Tuesday were the next breed – the next Jack Bowes or the next Elisha King.
Just a glimpse at our own Gordonvale Bombers can provide the evidence.
Tamika, despite running 70 metres the wrong direction at one point, snagged four goals buzzing around the forward zone like so many angry bees. Sharon’s running goal, though disallowed for running too far, still lifted a team to believe. Madeline and Khasaige were almost impenetrable, conceding only two goals for the whole day and marking almost every kick into their zone.
Darna, barely taller than our water container, twice lined up the opposition front on and tackled ferociously to gain possession. Lily, a quiet student in class, put on two consecutive hip and shoulder bumps that put fear into the opposition. Besanca crashed a pack and an opposition player flew out the other side.
Rose and Deborah worked hard all day and snagged valuable goals as their reward. Layla 1 and Layla 2 hurled themselves into contests to make the ball spill to our running machines.
Cleo, despite damaging her wrist the day prior, was determined to play her first ever game and Tash was badly hurt in the first game and had to be helped off the field. She returned for the third game and defended like a Trojan as if nothing had happened.
Maysharn’s handpass out of heavy traffic to set up a goal was the stuff of games on television and Deegan twice put her body on the line to create a stoppage instead of letting the opposition get away.
Yes, this is our Gordonvale team highlighted here, yet every act mentioned was mirrored by every team from every village, town and city present for the event – boys and girls. This was the skill level on show from kids whose ages ranged from 10 to 18. It is also the type of skills each player would be expected to have at every future stage of their football journey.
Our Gordonvale Bombers played three games for two wins. They dropped their last game, but still managed to finish in the top eight primary school girl’s teams in the state of Queensland – such is the magnitude of the event.
We are proud of our girls and they have done our school and community proud, as well as themselves. And that level of pride would be echoed and repeated across all teams and their home communities wherever in the state of Queensland they hail from.
When I spoke to the girls in the team that ended our run and now will go to the state championships in Maroochydore, the focus was clear. Embrace the occasion. You don’t know if you will ever get this chance again. Yet, at the same time, their victory could yet be the next leg on a football journey that could potentially see some of these kids emulate those local players who now play at the highest level in the land.
None of this is about victory. It is about opportunity, and all of the kids in Mackay last week heartily embraced what they were lucky enough to be a part of.
Picture Credit: AFLQ Schools
World Footy News