Young footballers keeps the regional spirit alive
THE under-10s might occasionally include an under-8 and a Quilpie winger might actually live over near Charleville, but thanks to people like Sally Challenor, the spirit of rugby league survives in the west.
Once it was the game that melded communities together - the grand finals of the 1960s and 1970s legendary affairs where the on-field heroics would still be discussed at the pub decades later.
But Sally, a key figure in Quilpie junior rugby league, said the drought of the past few years had cut a swathe through footy ranks.
"When I came Quilpie in 2010 you could not rent a house,'' she said. "Now it seems everyone has gone somewhere else.''
Some local cattle herds had been reduced to a quarter of their strength because of drought.
And many of the young ringers who featured so heavily in rugby league games have disappeared, along with the livestock.
However, Sally is determined to keep the game alive, encouraging primary kids who sometimes travel up to six hours in a bus on a Saturday to play rugby league in neighbouring towns like Cunnamulla or Augathella.
"I just love country rugby league and when you see how much the kids love it, you just want to give them more opportunities,'' she said.
"Sometimes we have to mix and match teams - sometimes a kid might play for Charleville and live somewhere else but we always try to it so we can get a team together and just play.''
She has her concerns, including the state of country ovals.
Many sporting grounds including Quilpie's John Waugh Park which was recently rejuvenated with the help of the local council have become so bare that games could not be played on them.
"We would have 20 or so kangaroos coming onto our oval at sunset to nibble the grass - it's almost impossible to get a good grass growth on an oval during drought.''
Shaun Radnedge (Zoro) who has lived 38 of his 48 years in the neighbouring town of Charleville, says three adults teams could easily have been fielded out of Charleville in the 80s.
Shaun, who is on the local council and is heavily involved in western Queensland rugby league, says the teams have dwindled to the extent that junior rugby league now provides the only hope that the tradition will continue.
"What western Queensland country towns need more than anything is jobs - real jobs that bring real people who come and live here, and who have kids join the local footy team,'' he says.