Far North Queensland communities have come together to play alongside some of the nation’s most elite NRL players during a four-day program of cultural and sporting events. The Arthur Beetson Foundation Future Immortals Tour visited Hope Vale, Cooktown and Wujal Wujal over the weekend, providing the chance for locals to rub shoulders with more than 20 former league stars.
The Tour was initiated by a partnership between Gungarde Community Centre, Hope Vale Foundation, My Pathway and Wujal Wujal Aboriginal Shire Council. Events included school visits, cultural ceremonies, training sessions and a community footy match.
My Pathway Associate Director, Darren Spencer, said the Tour had been an effective way to connect the community and inspire participation.
“We hoped locals would get behind the Tour and be inspired by some sporting heroes. They came out in droves and made the most of the opportunity to showcase their communities and culture,” he said.
“To ensure the impacts are long-lasting, and we’re speaking with the community about which activities were most valuable. We’re already thinking about how we can build on this year’s success to further support our communities in the future. Perhaps a return from some of the NRL legends will be on the cards.
“For me, seeing so many young people who were eager to participate in the training drills, community match or as water runners shows bright possibilities for the region.”
Local sixteen-year-old, Lincoln Raleigh, said that participation was key and his decision to get involved in a community footy match meant he got an invite to compete in the Murri Carnival later this month.
“I simply just love playing football. So, any chance I get for a game I’m up for it,” said Lincoln.
“I was pumped to play alongside professionals in front of a home crowd. After the game, Brad Beetson asked if I wanted to come play in the Murri Carnival where I’m looking forward to meeting new people and participating in a tough competition.
“It’s not often our mob get this type of opportunity, and I’m determined to make the most of it. It can really pay off to give things a go and participate, and I hope other young people in our community will keep getting involved when they can.”
Over four days the player split into groups to attend smoking ceremonies, school and community engagements, cultural activities, coaching clinics, exhibition matches and fundraising events. Players included Preston Campbell, Willie Tonga, Donald Malone, Mark Tookey, Ben Roberts and Reni Maitua among others.
Gungarde Community Centre, Hope Vale Foundation, My Pathway and Wujal Wujal Aboriginal Shire Council jointly funded the Tour and will consider how they deliver something similar in 2024. They also deliver the Community Development Program in the region, which is a fully funded program of the Australian Government.