FISH OUT OF WATER: Sad reality for local rugby competition
Women's rugby league has been benched in Bundaberg this year and the decision has devastated one local club.
Bundaberg's Past Brothers coach Nicole Thiele said they found out during a recent training session, after a Bundaberg Rugby League meeting.
Past Brothers have been dominate in the women's competition and this year would have marked the 10 year anniversary of their first premiership.
BRL chairman Mike Ireland confirmed the women's competition had been cancelled this year after only one team nominated.
Ireland said while some sides struggled for numbers, two Gladstone sides have joined the Rockhampton competition, leaving Past Brothers no one to play against come game day.
He said after COVID the numbers had dwindled in the women's competition locally and further afield.
Thiele said the women involved had been trying to keep the competition alive, and had hoped Gladstone would stay in the local comp and Hervey Bay would get a team together.
But unfortunately that didn't eventuate.
"The girls are very disappointed, this year would have been 10 year anniversary from our first premiership," she said.
"Everyone was keen to get back into it after having the year off."
Past Brothers had a few training runs before Christmas and had been training every Tuesday and Thursday since.
She said to find out in February that they won't be taking the field was a "bit of kick in the guts".
Thiele's been with the competition, intermittently, from the start and was coaching this year as she was still recovering from an injury.
She said just about her whole team had jumped ship to AFL because the next closest league comp is in Rockhampton or the Sunshine Coast.
"Bundaberg used to be the top comp, we had more teams playing in our comp at one stage than what Brisbane had playing in theirs," Thiele said.
"And now it's gone to nothing, just the one team."
Hailing from Monto, she said league was huge in her family and the community.
"Out there you don't have a lot of sports to choose from and when I was younger I just wanted to play whatever my brother was playing," she said.
"Watching your dad play and your uncles all play, that's pretty much where it stems from.
"Then once you get older you get more passionate about it."
She said it's "what you live for after a while".
When the comp was in its hay day, Thiele said it was "awesome", though they're unfortunately no stranger to naysayers about women playing league.
She said there needed to be more grassroots development encouraging youngsters to take the field.
"The sad part [is] that there's a heap of younger girls playing and then once they hit, I think it's 12, you can't play with the boys anymore," she said.
"And there's still no comp for them to go to."
Thiele said it would be a shame for the talented junior players if they couldn't get the competition back on its feet.
Ireland said it was "pity" to see the women's division cancelled and has advised those eager to play to consider joining Northern Districts Rugby League's Women's League Tag competition.
He said the BRL hoped to readdress the women's competition next year whether that be through a league or tag capacity.