COACHING LEGENDS: Western Downs Junior Rugby League secretary Teena Doherty, coaches Kelson Gaske and Paul Gunnis, and president Tamara Pitt at the junior rugby league carnival at Bulldog Park on Saturday, June 20, 2019.
COACHING LEGENDS: Western Downs Junior Rugby League secretary Teena Doherty, coaches Kelson Gaske and Paul Gunnis, and president Tamara Pitt at the junior rugby league carnival at Bulldog Park on Saturday, June 20, 2019. Brooke Duncan

Changing lives with rugby league

RUGBY LEAGUE: After a combined service that spans decades - and hundreds of lives - two beloved Western Downs coaches are hanging up their whistles.

Chinchilla's Kelson Gaske and Tara's Paul Gunnis have coached junior Western Downs teams for the past 13 years, and were recognised for their dedication to junior rugby league as Chinchilla hosted its junior carnival earlier this month.

Western Downs junior rugby league secretary Teena Doherty said the surprise presentation in the presence of at least 200 players -and their families - was a way to "acknowledge their contribution”.

For Gaske, the award was deeply appreciated but it has always been the little athletes that kept him going.

"That's what it was all about, just watching those kids get better and better,” Gaske said.

"You don't know what you've got when you select the team and to see the improvement in some of the kids, just the confidence, and that's what it's always been about, just giving the kids confidence to be better players and bring that back to their club.”

As the pair reflected on their time being involved with developing the region's young stars, there's several changes they have noticed in grass roots rugby league.

"That's been a good pick up for us too, to see the involvement of the girls, that they're just not in the canteen any more, they're actual players and officials,” Gaske said.

Another important change has been the introduction of weighted categories - children teams determined by weight category rather than age.

Gunnis said it meant players were "on the same level”.

"So they're not up against all the big kids,” he said.

Gaske agreed and said it had given smaller players the chance to get noticed and get "the start they needed”.

What stood out to them most though over the years wasn't the recognition with awards and plaques.

"The real recognition is when we run into players that'd been with us 10 years ago and they still say "g'day” to us, that's the real recognition,” Gaske said.


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