History Making event for Army
Originally published in Army News on October 27, 2011.
Sporting the team name Murungal, which means thunder, the 30-man squad had only a week to prepare and played three games at the carnival over October 8-9.
Coach Warrant Officer Class Two Jason Griffiths, 10th Force Support Battalion, said what the team lacked in cohesion, they made up for in pride and improved with each game.
“They put up a good fight,” he said.
“It also demonstrated to the indigenous population there are avenues for employment within the Army.”
Errors cost the team in its first game against the Black Jacks where it suffered a 18-6 loss but it regrouped against Bindal Sharks the eventual finalists and hosts of the carnival, only going down 27-20. It then played the plate final against Wuppa Bellas and despite getting away to an early 8-0 lead was beaten 24-15 and finished 13th in the competition.
Before the match, Corporal Leon Abdul-Rahman, Regimental Police Cell Headquarters, said he couldn’t wait to play with the team. “Access to sporting opportunities such as this is one of the highlights of being in the Army,” he said.
After some strong performances, Corporal Abdul-Rahman announced his retirement after playing for Army since 2003.
He said to finish his rugby league career playing in an indigenous carnival filled him with a lot of pride and that, at 39, he had achieved more than he had dreamed of when he first started playing rugby league as an eight year old.
Warrant Officer Class Two Griffiths said the team got to visit the home of the North Queensland Cowboys and got some coaching and also visited the Cleveland Detention Centre where they spoke with young indigenous children about their experiences in the Army.
“They played a game with the older boys and spent quite a bit of time at the facility,” Warrant Officer Class Two Griffiths said. “It had an immediate impact as three indigenous kids have already expressed an interest in the Army.”
Team manager Warrant Officer Class Two Ken Nelliman, Combat Training Centre, said he had been working on the idea of forming an indigenous rugby league team for years.
“I’m a local boy myself and I know there are quite a lot of indigenous servicemen up this way who have played on Army representative teams and have talent.”
“Hopefully some of the indigenous players from other teams will see us and it will open their eyes to what we do in the Army.”
The event attracted more than 5000 spectators and 18 teams with 20 of the Murungal team coming from Townsville-based units and the remainder from as far afield as Brisbane, Adelaide and Sydney.
Indigenous personnel wanting to get involved in future rugby league games should contact Warrant Officer Class Two Griffiths on (07) 4753 6258 or by email to jason.griffiths [at] defence.gov.au