‘Beautiful gesture’ and thanks as footy juniors back playing
WITH 29 Norths junior teams back enjoying their footy, Michael Williamson was a happy man.
His delight was shared by other coaches, club officials and parents who watched their kids play in games around the region on Friday night and Saturday.
The 2020 Ipswich Junior Rugby League season is up and running thanks to some tremendous work by dedicated club officials and volunteers.
But while thrilled to see so many Norths teams on the field, club coaching director Williamson had another reason to share deserved praise.
He appreciated how people involved with an under-10 team from Lowood went the extra mile to become one of Norths' three sides in that grade.
Williamson said Lowood officials organised Tigers shirts and socks for their young team when that was not required under 2020 shared playing arrangements.
"I found it a beautiful gesture from the Lowood families that came across,'' Williamson said.
"They all went and bought all the gear.
"They didn't have to. The league (Rugby League Ipswich) made the rule that they could wear their own shorts and socks from their own clubs.
"On Saturday, every player from Lowood in that Norths under-10 Tigers side all had the Norths shorts and socks on.''
The Lowood kids played in that under-10 side with their own coach, joining the club's Norths Gold and Norths Blue teams in the 10-week competition.
"To me, it was a very nice gesture from them in thanking us for giving them that opportunity,'' Williamson said. "It was lovely to see.
"For the parents and the coaching staff from that side to make that effort I thought was very nice.''
Norths have fielded just one less team than they expected after COVID-19 restrictions eased and nominations were finalised.
That includes two girls sides playing in the Brisbane SEQ under-14 and under-16 competition.
The Norths teams are involved in competitions from under-6 to under-17.
Williamson is coach of a Norths under-17 outfit.
The other clubs with junior teams in the restructured competitions are Goodna, West End, Redbank Plains and Swifts. They too have welcomed players from other clubs to provide a forum to play.
In his sixth year as Norths coaching director, Williamson knows how valuable rugby league is.
"We do it because we want the kids playing sport,'' Williamson said.
"We knew the extra effort it was going to put on our committee and our volunteers but we decided it was a challenge we've accepted to get the kids playing something.
"A lot of the little ones don't understand this at all.''
He said the club didn't want them to miss out so Norths pressed ahead.
"I've got to give Ipswich credit. The other Ipswich clubs that were able to,'' he said.
"And definitely nothing against the ones who couldn't because we understood how hard it was going to be on our volunteer base.
"So I definitely do not have any hard feelings towards the other clubs. It's unfortunate times.
"We just hope they all come back next season.''
With considerable doubt over whether junior footy could even be played in Ipswich this year, Williamson said Norths were planning to take teams to the Brisbane competition if needed.
He praised his junior club president Samantha Chandler and her committee for working tirelessly with parents and Rugby League Ipswich officials to get the sport up and running.
Williamson acknowledged Queensland Rugby League support manager Mitch Kent in particular for his efforts.
"He was really helpful,'' Williamson said.
As a Norths under-17 coach, Williamson hopes his team gets a chance to play in some sort of final this season.
"We're still having a conversation with the league, at least for the under 17s, the possibility of a one v two, or something at the end of the season,'' he said.
"For some of these boys, it will be their last season of juniors. Just so they have got something to play for.''
His team had a first round bye in the five-team top U17 competition.
Ipswich hobby photographer Gary Reid captured some fine action from the Norths v Goodna under-12 match at North Ipswich on Saturday.
As Williamson rightly observed, the smiles on the faces of the kids said it all.
"It's also the enjoyment on the parents faces of the little ones,'' he said.
Williamson also thanked Norths coach Glen Healy for his work with the club's under-6 program.
"He helps those kids tranisition up into the bigger football type stuff,'' Williamson said.
"I had a good chat to him on Saturday night and he was beaming for the fact that the kids were just loving it. They got to play football.''