Bernadette O’Neill has watched her husband, sons and, now, grandsons play rugby league.
Bernadette O’Neill has watched her husband, sons and, now, grandsons play rugby league. Craig Warhurst

Pathways help players to develop

THE Gympie Times goes one-on-one with one of the most familiar faces at a Devils game, Bernadette O'Neill.

Q. What's your role with the Gympie Devils?

A. I'm part of the senior committee this year and my main role is game day co-ordination. Basically, I do score-keeping, time-keeping and PA.

Q. How long have you been involved with Gympie rugby league?

A. Too long to remember - about 33 years, since the Wanderers played at Albert Park.

I've was also the president of the junior league for a few years.

Q. Why did you start helping out with the organisation and games?

A. My late husband used to play and I would go to watch, then I fell into the role of a club delegate.

It was then a natural progression for me to move over to the juniors when my sons started playing.

Q. What are the stand-out moments from watching your sons play?

A. Nathan played in the U17s Queensland team and Mark played in the Wide Bay U21s team in a game against a New Zealand side.

It was great watching the New Zealand team do the haka on the field.

Now, the highlight is watching my two grandsons play junior league.

It's great watching them play with the children of parents who I watched play when they were children.

Q. What is it that sparks your passion about Gympie rugby league?

A. Watching young people gain confidence and develop their skills, as well as the lifelong friendships that you develop through sport.

Q. What's a favourite memory you have from working with the Devils?

A. I've seen some funny things over the years, but one of the highlights of my career in a club perspective was the night we won the grand final.

Watching the junior players cross Nambour showgrounds before the game and make a guard of honour for the senior team was great.

I loved seeing the sea of blue and gold on the grounds from the strong junior base that was supporting the senior team in their first grand final.

It was also wonderful to see the scenes of jubilation when they won.

It brought it all together, the young and the old.

Q. What makes Gympie rugby league stand out?

The ability for seniors and juniors to work together.

Also, the Smarter Choices development program that's in place now. It brings a more professional approach to the game and it filters right through the league spectrum.

Also, Gympie encourages the young players to have a go farther afield and to play to their full potential.

Gympie isn't selfish, we encourage players to chase their dreams and go and try in the big cities.

However, we love to see them come back home and wear the blue and gold.

Over the years, I've watched them go and come back and it's nice that they come back because you know you must have done something right in the first place.

Q. What has changed in Gympie rugby league over the years?

A. When I first came to town, there were four clubs.

The decline in numbers eventually led to the formation of one club to allow it to go ahead in strengths, which it did.

Now there's much more choice in sports and not all kids play sports anymore.

Also, pathways for developing players are now there.

Previously, it was a hard battle for a country player to be selected in a Queensland team.

Now, there are a lot more established pathways there to develop their talent.

Q. How do you think the Devils are going this year?

A. We had a slow start to the season but have since come into form.

Injury has impacted the team in the first part of this season. It's a fairly close comp this year, the teams are a bit hot and cold.

We have the potential to do well this season, the team just has to be hungry enough to want to win the grand final, it's all up to their attitude.

Come September, there's nothing I'd like better than that trophy.

Q. Why do you keep coming back to your role with the Devils?

A. I keep doing the games because my grandsons play junior league, and unless people put their hands up to do these jobs, no club would ever exist.

Also, I still get nervous prior to a game and like seeing the familiar faces move from junior to senior.

Q. What do you enjoy about your job?

A. I enjoy watching players' potential grow, week in, week out and knowing everyone gives it their best shot.

I also enjoy how good it feels when the full-time hooter goes and we're in front on the scoreboard.

Player profile

Name: Bernadette O'Neill

Age: I'm in the prime of my life

Born: Casino, New South Wales

Favourite food: Homemade rissoles and veg

Favourite TV program: Revenge

Favourite music: Neil Diamond or the Beach Boys

Favourite Movie: The Sound of Music

Sport you would you be involved with if not rugby league: I like all sport. I play squash and tennis

Funniest moment in sport: When a player puts the ball down at the 10m line or the dead ball line, thinking it's a try

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