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Eastern Suburbs Magpies The little club that could

Eastern Suburbs Magpies The little club that could

Eastern Suburbs Magpies The little club that could

Author : Rikki-Lee Arnold Community content producer

Eastern Suburbs Magpies The little club that could

There really is no place like home.

At least, that’s how it feels for those at Bundaberg’s Eastern Suburbs Magpies.

A second home to many, the small but proud junior rugby league club have a loyal following, but this year also find themselves at somewhat of a crossroads.

Whether it’s from a COVID-related hangover, or the threat of bigger clubs looming large, Easts are starting to see a dip in participation numbers.

Club president Bec Haskins said this year the Magpies would only be able to field teams for the under 6 to under 13 age groups, ultimately losing a pathway for their teenage players to get to the club’s senior teams.

There is no denying it is a setback.

But Haskins also knows where Easts’ strengths lie.

With their “homey” and welcoming atmosphere, the club are hopeful they can build up their sides again, and are also ready to show the community they have the development and support their kids require.

“We’re a family-friendly club,” Haskins said.

“We’re open to everyone. We have a wonderful bunch of coaches and a lot of our families volunteer for different sorts of roles.

“About 90 per cent of our coaches are ex-Easts players, which creates a really good culture and environment for the players to come into… it has a homey, familiar feel.

“We’ve always been a smaller club but I’d like to grow past that stigma and promote the development, friendships and wellbeing we can provide through all levels of rugby league.”

Easts' under 12s side in 2021. Photo: Kelly Hammond

Easts’ under 12s side in 2021. Photo: Kelly Hammond

Haskins and her club secretary, Kelly Hammond, are on a mission to showcase these features and will have experienced rugby league coach Lee Addison.

Addison who has worked with Manly and Penrith – run development clinics with their junior players.

They will also hold events, such as a fun day on March 5.

To increase their involvement within the community, and are working with a lot of their teenage players who are without a team to improve their skills in other areas, such as refereeing and through LeagueSafe courses.

Hammond’s own 16-year-old son, Blake Ward, is one who has gone without a side to play in for the past two years but has opted to stay faithful to Easts.

He is helping the club through LeagueSafe and trains with the reserve grade and A-grade sides in a bid to eventually play with them when he is old enough.

Hammond said despite the drop in numbers, the club had remained the same.

“We’ve been here since my son turned six,” she said.

“When we first started here, there was a great atmosphere, everyone was really friendly and made you feel welcome.

“It’s remained really family-orientated… we’re hoping to get the numbers back.”

Another family that has stayed faithful despite the lack of older teams is that of Skye and Shannon Boyd.

Fourteen-year-old Shannon has been with the club for five years and is this season undergoing a LeagueSafe course.

His mother, Skye, works as a first aid officer and said it was Haskins who worked with Shannon to make sure he felt supported and able to stay in rugby league, even without a team.

“We did look at another club but unfortunately they were full,” she said.

“But Shannon said, ‘look Mum, I don’t want to throw the towel in. I want to be involved’.

“So Bec gave him a few options and he took the LeagueSafe option.

“It’s sad to see kids who are so passionate about something and then it becomes really hard for them. But (Easts) are just so supportive – such a friendly mob of people.

They always try to include you in things.”

And for Shannon, in the end there really was no other place he’d rather be.

“They help you there… they’ve supported me with all my footy,” he said.

“It’s my first year without a side but I just want to give back to them what they’ve given to me.”

Registrations are open now at playrugbyleague.com.

Easts will also hold a fun day at their training fields on Saturday, March 5 from 8.30am, with the opportunity to meet the coaches and players from the under 6s up to the under 13s.

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