Young footballers play where NRL stars shine
THREE Ipswich junior rugby league teams got to feel what it's like to be a rugby league star.
In front of a huge crowd at Suncorp Stadium last Saturday night, the boys and girls under-8 sides from West End, Swifts and Karalee joined a team from the Sunshine Coast on the hallowed field at halftime.
West End director of coaching Jae Woodward said it was hard to pick who loved the experience more, the kids or the parents.
"We've done it with the Ipswich Jets before but this was a step up," he said.
"The kids definitely had a ball and the parents loved it as well.
"These kids have been born with a football in hand, and the enjoyment they've gotten out of this only pushes them to set their goals (in rugby league)."
The opportunity to feel like a Brisbane Bronco star was given to the young players as part of the Slater and Gordon Mini-League.
The Mini-League experience gives four junior teams across Queensland the opportunity to play on the Broncos home turf in front of their family, friends and a roaring Brisbane crowd.
Slater and Gordon lawyer Sara Parga said the Mini-League was an exciting opportunity for the young Ipswich players to have a moment in the spotlight.
"This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for these Ipswich junior rugby league players to run out onto the field and play in front of a roaring Broncos crowd," Parga said.
"A number of Ipswich junior players have gone on to sport the Broncos jersey over the years and I am sure there will be a few more up and coming stars among these under 8's."
One current Brisbane player with close ties to the Ipswich junior competition is Joe Ofahengaue, who played off the bench against the Newcastle Knights on Saturday.
"Joe has a face the kids can relate to,'' Woodward said.
"He's been around for training and development days.
"Brisbane are one of the best teams in the competition and they pack out Suncorp Stadium every week. To have Joe with the side now shows the quality of kids we have coming through (in Ipswich)."
As part of the Mini-League program, each junior player was given a goodies bag of Brisbane Broncos gear, including a pair of the club's football socks and a poster of the 2016 team. That was something to take home to remember the occasion.