COMMITTED: The game needs passionate individuals and Mundubbera are lucky to have Cameron MacDonald.
COMMITTED: The game needs passionate individuals and Mundubbera are lucky to have Cameron MacDonald. Adam Mccleery

Tigers' take: Rugby league currently 'weakest I've seen it'

CAMERON MacDonald is a rugby league tragic and the spiritual leader of the Mundubbera Tigers.

As president he's in charge of the club's operations off the field and as captain he's responsible for the team's success on the field.

His love affair with the sport began when he first laced up the boots as a six-year-old.

His dad was the coach and his family were "rugby league mad”.

He now has a young son of his own who loves the game.

MacDonald fears rugby league's days are numbered in the North Burnett and his son may not get the same opportunity.

THE PROBLEM: State of the League

INTRODUCTION: The Decline

PART ONE: Mal Meninga Weighs In

PART TWO: Gavin Ford's Sacrifice

PART THREE: Richard Dugdale's Herculean Task

"I don't know if there's going to be anywhere for him to play,” MacDonald said.

"I grew up around here and every club had juniors from Under 8s right up to first grade.

"I don't think there's enough being done in rural communities development-wise.

"The local school has AFL posts on the sports oval. It's disheartening to see.”

MacDonald accepting Australia Day honours for Community Event of the Year and and Sports Administrator of the Year.
MacDonald accepting Australia Day honours for Community Event of the Year and and Sports Administrator of the Year. Philippe Coquerand

Not long ago, Aussie Rules goal posts on outback ovals in Queensland and New South Wales would have been considered blasphemy.

Today it's an all too common sight.

Without a local junior rugby league competition, parents like MacDonald must journey south.

They regularly face a two-hour, 180km trip from Mundubbera to Kingaroy, often for an 8am kick off.

It's a lot to ask on the weekend.

It won't stop MacDonald, he loves rugby league, but other parents won't bother, particularly if their child's friends are playing soccer.

Without a strong grassroots base, senior competitions will fade away.

That's exactly what we're witnessing in the North Burnett now. MacDonald said the writing is on the wall for the Central Burnett Rugby League.

"I don't know what the future holds. I would really hate to see it die,” he said.

"At the moment rugby league out here is probably the weakest I've seen it.

"I can't see how the competition will find a way to go around next year.

"It would be great to see clubs get back on their feet but I don't think it will happen, unfortunately. It's getting harder and harder for bush football to survive.

"Small country towns don't have much to offer people these days. It's hard to build sporting committees when there's not much to attract people to the towns.”

MacDonald busts his guts for the Tigers on and off the field.
MacDonald busts his guts for the Tigers on and off the field. Mackenzie Colahan

Poor job prospects are forcing young men to leave country towns for the coast in droves.

Footy clubs were once outback institutions.

A strong club and the opportunity to run around with their mates each Saturday might be all it takes to make a few reconsider. It's certainly an incentive.

But when clubs disappear more people are driven out and the cycle continues.

Something needs to change.

It's not the NRL's responsibility to create jobs in the bush but they can be part of the solution.

MacDonald was scathing of the game's administrators who he believes are not doing enough to support outback rugby league.

He said it's about time the governing bodies rethink their definition of 'country' areas.

Neil Reinke, Murray MacDonald and Cameron at the inaugural MacDonald Shield game.
Neil Reinke, Murray MacDonald and Cameron at the inaugural MacDonald Shield game. Tobi Loftus

"It's rare to see rugby league get out here and into the schools which is disappointing,” MacDonald said.

"Last year we were lucky enough to host an Intrust Super Premiership game and that sort of stuff should be brought out more.

"Clubs like us shouldn't have to go out of our way and apply to get those games. The QRL should spread it around.

"It annoys me when they consider the likes of Bundaberg, Hervey Bay and Gympie as 'regional' towns. To me, those are cities.

"You see those places calling themselves regional areas and we're stuck out here getting the short end of the stick.

"Sam Thaiday and Darius Boyd were in Bundaberg the other week. I can't tell you the last time we had a high profile player the likes of those two out here.

"Kids see the superstars and they want to get involved.

"Their priorities are not in the right place and there is definitely a lot more that can be done for the country by the NRL and QRL.”

While bush footy's sharpest minds have been vocal in their criticism of the powers that be, MacDonald said they don't deserve all of the blame.

The community-minded approach to life that has defined rural towns for so long seems to be disappearing too.

This cultural shift is making things worse. He said there's a whole generation of disinterested youth that no longer want to help.

The sport is crying out for more people like Lucy Maddick, Jan-Adele Hotz and Cameron MacDonald.
The sport is crying out for more people like Lucy Maddick, Jan-Adele Hotz and Cameron MacDonald. Philippe Coquerand

"People are always willing to sit on the fence and criticise the way you run the club but they're not willing to get out and help,” MacDonald said.

"There's a generation that think it's easier to let someone else do it. It is going to end up killing committees and making things harder.

"Once a club folds it's always hard to get them back up.

"Once a club goes it takes part of the town's spirit with it.”


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