FOR Kiarna Veitch, competing in the 44th annual Koori Knockout was a chance for her to show she was proud of her indigenous culture.
“And I like tackle,” she laughed.
The 16-year-old Ulladulla High School student represented the South Coast Sharks in the indigenous rugby league knock-out event held at Lakeside Oval, Raymond Terrace from Friday, October 3 to Monday, October 6.
Regarded as the biggest sports gathering of Indigenous people in the world, the Koori Knockout saw over 150 teams, across the men’s, women’s and junior tournament battle it out for rugby league glory.
Kiarna was still on a high from her history-making grand final win with the Milton Ulladulla Bulldogs women’s league tag team on Sunday, September 21 when she stayed in Wollongong for a two-week trial for the Sharks that saw 28 girls cut to 20.
“We thought we had a pretty good team. We were really close and it felt like I had known the girls forever,” Kiarna said.
Unlike women’s league tag and Kiarna’s other favourite sport, touch football, the Koori Knockout is full contact rugby league, with some teams boasting some solid players, a lot olde, bigger and more experienced than Kiarna.
Although none of this fazed her.
“Mum was a bit nervous but I was so keen,” she said.
“Before I went up I watched last year’s grand finals so I knew what I was in for.”
The Sharks’ first match was against Newcastle All Blacks, where they claimed a 6-nil win in a rough game.
One of Kiarna’s teammates suffered a broken jaw and Kiarna herself received a head high tackle while making a breakaway run, which saw her crash to the ground and injure her shoulder.
Despite being advised by paramedics to sit the next game out, Kiarna said she could not miss her team’s afternoon game against Redfern.
“It was important because I was representing Ulladulla and my culture,” she said.
The game against Redfern was brutal, and the Sharks went down 18-nil and were eliminated from the competition.
“They were mean, they were dirty, they tackled hard. In the game before they played the Titans and one chick had to be taken off in a stretcher,” Kiarna said.
Despite the loss, Kiarna said she enjoyed switching from her position on the wing to the forward pack.
Her team was also not too disappointed, with Redfern going on to take out the women’s competition.
“We were happy with how we defended against them because they were the top team,” she said.
Kiarna thanked her mother Rachel and her coach Michael Roberts.
She hopes to be back playing for the Bulldogs and the Sharks next season.
Kiarna was not the only local to play in the Koori Knockout.
Milton Ulladulla Bulldogs impact player Kirren Roughley played for the Yuin Monaro.
On the Saturday morning Kirren’s team had a tough match where they drew drew 12-all.
Yuin Monaro were able to progress to the next round because they scored the first try.
On the Sunday morning Kirren’s team played Yapun Yapun on Sunday morning for a dominant 58-nil win.
They then went on to play Walgett, which had NRL players, Melbourne Storm’s George Rose and Illawarra Dragons’ Joel Thompson, as well as former NRL player Rod Jensen.
Yuin Monaro scored the first try but ended up losing 24-12.
Walgett went on to beat Newcastle All Blacks in the final.