Rugby league is the main game in Central West Queensland. People drive for hours to go and watch their children play, and they do the same for the senior A-grade games as well.
The junior clubs in Barcaldine, Longreach, Blackall and Winton agreed to compete in what is called a cluster day. This means that all the clubs travel to one location on a rotation basis and compete, and this allows kids the chance to play more than a single game on game day.
This weekend Barcaldine hosted the cluster day. It was here I witnessed the awesomeness of the people of Barcaldine and Central West Queensland. The number of people giving up their free time to help the club was overwhelming.
I wish I could name all the people involved, but that’s probably not appropriate since I didn’t tell them that I would write about them. I will stress that it was a pleasure to see everyone helping out, be it in the kitchen, running water for the kids, coaching or generally assisting with anything that needed to be done. What is more, they do this all the time!
That is what sport and rugby league can do. It can bring out the best in people, and I feel like I was the lucky one who was allowed to be involved.
For this weekend I had decided to help the club in any way that they wanted me to. This was due to the fact that some people were away for the long weekend. One of my roles was to be my colleague’s assistant, which meant doing whatever she told me to do. That was cool as it required no thinking on my part. However, my primary role for the day was a simple one: to keep time. This role was fantastic as it meant that I got to sit in the shade and watch football for an entire day.
I saw kids having the time of their lives. I saw parents have the time of their lives too for that matter. There were great runs, great passes and great tackles. I saw sportsmanship of the highest order. There were no scores kept, no winners or losers; fun and enjoyment was the aim of the day, and it was achieved in bucketloads.
In the evening the senior teams of Barcaldine and Blackall competed, the Sandgoannas versus the Magpies. The sun had set and the stand was full – so full in fact that people sat on the stairs. On the eastern side of the ground the grey nomads that had parked for the weekend were loving the timing of their stay. They got to watch rugby league played in its purest form.
In the crowd, young and old alike screamed and cheered until their throats went dry. Naturally, hilariously parochial comments echoed among the stands. There are a lot of comedians at the footy.
Then, when the chance presented itself and one sought refreshments and food, they were served by the same men and women who had been present for the juniors and who had helped out all day long. Once again, that’s a tremendous effort.
As far as the senior rugby league went, Blackall had a 22-4 advantage at halftime. The words spoken in the Sandgoannas dressing shed at half-time worked wonders. In the second half they came racing out of the blocks like a greyhound seeks the lure. They played brilliant footy and took the lead with less than ten minutes to go.
Unfortunately for the Sandgoannas rugby league is an 80-minute game, and a try to Blackall with only two minutes left cruelled Barcaldine’s hopes for a come-from-behind victory. Although Blackall won 26-24, the sport of rugby league was the real winner.
Obviously what the people from the Barcaldine Sandgoannas did for their kids, the club and the town this weekend gets repeated every weekend by rugby league and sports clubs across Australia, but it would be remiss not to say a big thank you to all involved. It is people like you that make a community and additionally make the sport of rugby league the greatest game of all.
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With one Test cricket series wrapping up and another beginning, WBBL finals to preview and some more end-of-decade discussions to be had, it’s sure to be an action-packed episode of the The Roar’s Game of Codes podcast.