A TEAM of rugby league players from across Cape York and the Torres Strait were given a bruising welcome to bush footy at Roma, beaten comfortably on the scoreboard by Queensland Outback but relishing the experience of the annual rep footy exhibition match. 

North Queensland United, comprising players from far northern communities including Bamaga, Normanton, Thursday Island and Weipa, last year beat the Outback boys when they hosted the fixture in Tully, but on Sunday the tables turned completely as a slick backline of local Roma players found holes all over the northerners’ defence.

The undefeated Roma Cities are dominating the south western competition, so it came as no surprise when six players were named in the Outback starting side to host NQ United. 

Queensland Outback captain and five-eight Alex Coonan

The 9-7-6 combination of Joseph Packer, Cameron Bartley and Alex Coonan steered the team with precision, while fellow Cities fullback Billy Coonan and centre Thomas Barron were making big metres whenever they had the ball in hand. 

But it was in the forwards where most of Outback’s eight tries came from.

Front rowers Kurt Rowbotham and John Russo, both from the Wallumbilla Surat Red Bulls, were relentlessly brutal hitting the ball up.

Blackall Magpies player Logan Hauff, wearing number 11, put on a Man of the Match performance, while St George’s Samuel Munns bagged two tries coming off the bench as a utility forward. 

Queensland Outback prop Kurt Rowbotham meeting the North Queensland defence


The final score was 40-8 to Queensland Outback, but anyone watching at Arthur Beetson Oval yesterday would agree the big points difference said little of the entertaining football.

There was powerful defence from NQ United’s forward pack.

It took four defenders to contain Weipa boy Wuralumbe Pablo any time he carried the ball forward and by the end of the second half, NQ’s five-eight Joe Bond (Weipa) and halfback Brendon Magala had organised the team into some dangerous attacking shapes. 

Queensland Outback coach John Doyle agreed a second game between the two sides would yield a more even score. 

“You could see how tough they were and there’s so much talent there – we saw one of their second rowers catch a bomb and then do a flick pass for a try,” Doyle said.

“I can’t wait to see them get a little bit more structure and discipline.”

NQ United fullback Sig Manuwigness finds space at Arthur Beetson Oval

Doyle, a former Cowboys, Roosters and Maroons hooker, said he’d added the Queensland Outback coaching role to his long list of career highlights. 

“It’s just been been great seeing everybody in the team bond and find that cohesion,” he said. 

“They’re a great bunch of blokes so it was pretty easy for them to get along.

“I love outback footy. I want to help keep it alive and keep it strong.”

(L-R) North Queensland United and Queensland Outback coaches Olsen Sailor and John Doyle swap gifts, and Doyle’s son Urijaha


Match officials David York, Tim Pitt and Barry Duff

For all the prowess of the men’s game, perhaps the best individual performance yesterday came from the captain of the Queensland Outback women’s team.

Kailah Kinsey from Longreach, wearing Number 13, broke tackles with every hit up and didn’t let a single ball carrier through in defence.

Kinsey put on a fine display of leadership and goal kicking to boot, slotting four conversions from five including one from the sideline early in the game. 

Hers was a Player of the Match performance, while fellow Longreach girl Daniella Mudu took home the plaque for Queensland Outback’s Best and Fairest.

The final score in the women’s game was 28-14 to Outbacks.

NQ United coach Elle Hosea-Peters from Thursday Island said simply visiting south west Queensland, let alone playing a spirited game of rep football, was a thrill for the team. 

“It’s been a culture shock,” Hosea-Peters said. 

“We’re so used to seeing the sea and saltwater. Coming out here is different country. We’re blessed and privileged to see this side of country. The sunset it amazing. 

“We did well working together. We didn’t come with any fancy plays or game plans except just to play what’s in front of us. 

“We had to get to know each other and bond in a very short time. Everyone’s had a lot of fun.”


A huge day of rugby league at Roma Cities’ home ground culminated with a country round clash between Hostplus Queensland Cup teams Norths Devils and Burleigh Bears. 

Queensland Rugby League sends fixtures to rural and regional towns once a year to promote the game at the grassroots level, and bush footy fans relish seeing top tier competition played in their own backyard.

Roma Cities president Mark Street said staff from the QCup clubs had been in Roma all week in preparation for the game and took the time to visit schools and conduct coaching clinics with the town’s youngsters. 

Roma Cities president Mark Street

“It’s been a great day for us. It was great to see everyone turn up for the event,” Street said.

“It’s taken a lot of preparation from a lot of volunteers. Without our volunteers and support staff we wouldn’t be the club we are today. 

“It’s a great thing for Roma to be able to host this. It was great to be able to combine the Hostplus game with the Outback and North Queensland game. 

“A lot of people probably haven’t seen this standard of footy, other than watching it on television, and to have these clubs come out is great. 

“The support we’ve had from the club over the weeks leading up to today has been terrific.” 

North Devils went down to the Burleigh Bears in the Hostplus QCup game in Roma
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