Where there’s a will, there’s a way and the girls from the Clarence Valley area of northern NSW are living proof of that.
High-school students from three different school teams – the Grafton Ghosts, Lower Clarence Magpies and the South Grafton Rebels – have come together at short notice to form a Rugby League team Clarence Coast to enter the NSWRL’s Group 2 Under 16s girls tackle competition.
One of their members travels from nearby Casino by train to Grafton (over 100km) to train with her teammates.
One of the mums behind the project is Kylie Randell, the Female Development Officer (Group 1) for the Northern Rivers Rugby League (NRRL).
“My inspiration behind needing girls tackle to take off is my 12-year-old daughter (Bree),” Randell said. “She’s played Rugby League in a boys team since 2018 and wants to continue to play the game she loves next year.
“To try to make this happen for her I took on the Female Development Officer position for Group 1. In the process of my family becoming much more involved with our local club, my children have developed a stronger love for the game, and this has led to my 15-year-old daughter (Makayla) wanting to play too.
“The only opportunity to make this happen for her was by encouraging her to join a Group 2 club, as we had no girls tackle and league tag teams were full.”
The end result of the hard work, all compressed into just a month, has been the creation of a team to join Group 2. There have also been other benefits for Kylie’s daughter Makayla.
“Since starting this team I’ve seen her confidence grow dramatically, her physical health improve and seen her form many new friendships,” Randall said.
“She’s happy. She feels she’s found a place she belongs. I love this for her.
“I didn’t realise the overall impact of having the opportunity to play tackle football would have on the girls’ lives… not to mention the improved behaviours and increased concentration levels noticed by teachers at school.
“Our passionate coaching staff along with the girls have created culture that I’m so proud to be a part of.”
Don’t just take Kylie’s word for it. Another of the players – Isabelle – tells her story.
“I’ve finally found a sport that I really love, and I feel like I fit in and not be judged by the way I look, like my size is now an advantage,” Isabelle said.
“I actually feel confident out on the field and like that I can be tough and go hard.”
Or Yasmin sums up the impact just as well.
“I started playing footy when I was 10 and had to stop because girls and boys cannot play together past the age of 13,” Yasmin said.
“There wasn’t a girls comp in my area yet and all I wanted to do was play footy. I didn’t know what to do with myself and really struggled not being able to play. But this tackle comp really helped me get the happiness back. I have gotten to meet some amazing people, create some new friends and most of all just play some footy.”