Indigenous All Stars forward Shaniah Power believes February’s fixture against the Maori All Stars in Townsville could kick start a campaign for a Cowboys team to join the NRLW competition as soon as 2022.
Power, who played for the Warriors this year and represented Queensland in State of Origin, is a member of the North Queensland Gold Stars team who will take part in the QRL’s BHP Premiership next season as a stepping stone to the NRLW.
The Gold Stars were established this year for players from Mackay, Townsville and Cairns, and the team, which included Power and fellow Indigenous All Stars representative Jenni-Sue Hoepper, Steph Mooka and Layla Fauid, played one match before the BHP Premiership was cancelled due to COVID-19.
Ultimately, the Cowboys hope to enter the NRLW competition and Power said the February 202 All Stars match at QCB Stadium was an opportunity to demonstrate the support for a women’s team in North Queensland and inspire young girls who could become future players.
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“I think the club’s goal is 2022 or 2023 but I feel like it all depends on the effort that the girls put in this year and how hard they are willing to work. That could determine whether it goes ahead in 2022,” Power said.
“There have been a lot of great stars from North Queensland, like Jenni-Sue and Steph from Townsville and girls from Mackay like Britt Breayley and Renae Kunst, who have always had to travel to play or go down to Brisbane because that is where you get noticed.”
Power spent time this year in Brisbane playing for Wests Panthers in the six-team Holcim Cup competition in a bid to earn an NRLW contract and was picked up by the Warriors.
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After making her Indigenous All Stars debut in this year’s 10-4 triumph over the Maori team at Cbus Super Stadium, the 23-year-old understands the significance of the match and how it can influence community attitudes.
“I feel like it is a privilege to know that there are young girls who can or would look up to me,” she said. “I know from growing up here that there are all these stereotypes associated with being Indigenous, so seeing more games like this and all these Indigenous role models is something to take pride in.
“I just really hope it puts a fire in the bellies of the young girls watching. I want them to be think, yes I want to be like that.”
Before playing alongside the likes of Hoepper, Shakiah Tungai, Nakia Davis-Welch, Shaylee Bent and Jasmin Allende in this year’s All Stars match, Power did not know a lot about her Indigenous heritage but the experience in camp inspired her to learn more
What she discovered was that her great grandmother had identified as a South Sea Islander to avoid her children becoming victims of the Stolen Generation as the White Australia Policy exempted Aboriginals married to Pacific Islanders from having their offspring forcibly removed.
“That’s why we don’t know too much about it,” Power said. “We know she was born on Juru land in Bowen and raised there.
“Her husband was a South Sea Islander so she actually claimed to be a South Sea Islander. She did that so the kids wouldn’t be taken from her because they never took the Islander kids, they only took the Indigenous kids.
“There is a time frame when all of those stories and history were lost through fear of losing loved ones.”
Sydney Roosters captain Corbin McGregor also reconnected with her heritage after playing for the Maori All Stars this year and has been practicing songs and dances ahead of February’s match.
McGregor was born in New Zealand but moved to Australia when she was three years old and has represented the Jillaroos in eight Tests.
“I have been disconnected from my Maori culture so it was a learning experience and I thoroughly enjoyed the whole campaign,” McGregor said.
“It was definitely a challenge but I really enjoyed learning the haka and practicing with my son. It took a bit of practice, we had a Facebook group where the New Zealand-based girls were uploading lots of stuff trying to help us prior to coming together which helped a lot.
“I want to try and pass on as much as possible to my son and now that we are about to get back into it again I have been trying to learn as many songs and Maori dances and things like that as I can.”
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