7 April 2020

Young Indigenous rugby players showcase skills at a national level

Some of the most promising rugby talent in Australia – including two teams sponsored by Whitehaven Coal – converged for the annual KARI Foundation Ella 7s tournament in Dubbo in early March.

More than 400 players competed in the flagship Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander rugby union 7s competition in the country, named after the famed Ella brothers – Gary, Glen and Mark.

Now in its 12th year, the tournament offers players the opportunity to showcase their skills on a national level, fielding teams from across NSW and Queensland.

Whitehaven sponsored Black Magic, a men’s team, and the Highlanders, a women’s team, both from central Queensland and culturally affiliated with the Barada Barna People. The Barada Barna People are the Traditional Owners of the land in central Queensland where Whitehaven’s Winchester South Project is located and were one of the first stakeholder groups Whitehaven formed a relationship with after acquiring the development site in 2018.

Unfortunately, both teams were missing some of their star players with the rugby season well underway in Queensland. Despite this setback, they were relentless in their pursuit of the title.

Black Magic, co-captained by Kenneth Robertson and Daniel West-Pes, finished at the top of their pool after three consecutive wins. In the Semi Final, they were narrowly defeated by La Perouse, who went on to claim the men’s title.

The Highlanders, the reigning champions, were set to face off with their archrivals, Gracie’s Team, in the Grand Final for the third year in a row. After a nail-biting game in which the Highlanders scored two late tries to make a comeback in the dying minutes of the clash, they came up short, with a final score of 19-15.

“They were hard-fought games from both our teams and I’m sure the Australian Rugby Union officials who were there would’ve been overwhelmed by all the talent on the field,” Black Magic team manager Jade Smith said after the tournament.

The tournament has been a pathway for many Indigenous players in representing the Australian 7s, and Smith credited Whitehaven’s support with allowing men and women from Central Queensland the chance to be noticed by selectors.

“I want to thank Whitehaven for helping us to get down here and for their support of Indigenous Australians. All of the young men and women who participated are very appreciative of the support offered to help them showcase their skills on a national level,” added Smith.

The Ella 7s competition began in 2008 in Coffs Harbour. In addition to the tournament itself, the competition also includes a number of information stalls and services aimed at promoting Aboriginal health, wellbeing and employment.

The sponsorship forms part of Whitehaven Coal’s work to make a difference in the lives of Indigenous people around its operations, which is focused on addressing Indigenous disadvantage through initiatives in the areas of early childhood education and support, schooling and sport, skills development and employment.

Pictured: The Black Magic team with Whitehaven Coal’s Manager, Aboriginal Community Relations, Bob Sutherland.

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