In a week where rugby league embraces cultural diversity, one of the best stories of the NRL All-Stars fixture is about a very unique ball boy.
Kendly Hawkins, aged 10, is the younger brother of World and Australian Latin dance champion and new Yellow Wiggle Tsehay Hawkins.
Born in Colombia and adopted at eight months old, Kendly has grown up on a diet of rugby league, follows the Bulldogs and idolises Indigenous superstar Josh Addo-Carr.
“Kendly just loves rugby league. He’s tried a few other sports, but nothing matches the joy he gets from the physicality of rugby league,” says Australian-born father Reg Hawkins.
“We tried him in soccer for a while because of his Colombian heritage, but rugby league was more the game for him.
“He’s an extremely energetic kid. He goes 100 miles-per-hour from the moment he wakes up until he goes to sleep every single day. It’s been that way since he first came into the family.”
For the past five years Kendly has played club rugby league for the Thirlmere-Tahmoor Roosters in the NSWRL Group 6 competition.
His preferred position suits his livewire personality – fullback.
He secured a chance to be a ball boy at the Harvey Norman All-Stars game at CommBank Stadium by entering a competition run by the NRL.
His entry read: “I love playing rugby league because I get to have fun with my mates and keep fit. Rugby league is awesome!!”
Parents Reg and Robyn decided to adopt from Colombia after the experience of raising his 16-year-old sister Tsehay, who was adopted from Ethiopia.
She has gone on to be a high achiever in most areas, winning 11 Australian title and four World titles in Latin and commercial dance, and more recently being selected as the newest member of hugely popular children’s troupe, The Wiggles.
Tsehay has previously credited the experience of visiting Colombia for Kendly’s adoption as the inspiration for her passion for Latin dance.
“We’re very proud and open about both our children’s backgrounds…we have a lot of Colombian artefacts around the house,” their father says.
“They say that adoption is just as much about falling in love with the country as you do with the child, and that’s certainly been our experience.
“Tsehay started learning Spanish at school to go along with her love for Latin dance, and Kendly has been using Duolingo to upskill himself.
“Personally, my favourite place in Colombia is Providencia. It’s like going back in time or to a family house – very beautiful and hospitable.”