Thanks Ipswich for supporting the gala game with pride
OLD bones jarred, the puffing got louder and the players suffered soreness that will be felt for days.
However, there were still powerful fends, skilful sidesteps and daring passes, not to mention some decent tackles.
It's clear once a high quality footballer, the skills always remain.
That was the case at the North Ipswich Reserve for the inaugural Ipswich Indigenous All Stars v Ipswich All Stars encounter on Saturday night.
Although the Ipswich All Stars won the game 36-12 with fresher legs and superior speed, the Indigenous players never gave in and displayed many traits they are famous for.
It was a wonderful occasion rewarding the suggestion of former players Corey Kirk and Craig Wehrman that was followed through by dedicated Rugby League Ipswich chairman Gary Parker and his team.
Most pleasing on Saturday was the positive approach of both teams - determined to showcase their past and present skills in a tremendous spirit through rugby league.
Indigenous All Stars fullback Wes Conlon was a crowd favourite, receiving a massive cheer as he turned on his deceptive steps running up the sideline.
Some of the players were less familiar than others but added vital elements to the success of the day.
Ipswich Jets head coach Keiron Lander joined the occasion watching the match from the Indigenous team bench. Having worked with Indigenous people in rugby league and life in general, he appreciated the significance of the game.
The tribal dancers before the game offered an engaging performance that captured the attention of everyone at the home of Ipswich rugby league.
Their every move clearly had important traditional meaning that befitted the day recognising Indigenous culture and how rugby league brings people together.
Before, during and after the match, there were abundant hugs, handshakes and embraces that typified the mutual respect between Indigenous and non-Indigenous footballers who love the game they have played or continue to enjoy.
During the halftime break, kids swarmed on to the North Ipswich Reserve field like a hive of bees to enjoy kicking the footy around. This is where the stars of tomorrow experience their first atmosphere under lights.
The pre-match Friday night dinner at the North Ipswich Reserve set the scene with inspired expressions of friendship, football feats and Ipswich achievements.
After months of uncertainty due to COVID concerns, it was terrific seeing so many people attend the gala match. They took up comfortable spots around the ground with their children and cheered from the main grandstand.
Ipswich Mayor Teresa Harding and her husband welcomed Indigenous visitors to the city, displaying the hospitality we are famous for at our sporting venues.
Amid the post-game fervour was a sense of satisfaction.
The hope is Saturday night's game becomes an annual event.
Congratulations to those who planted the proverbial seed and to Parker and his RLI helpers for turning the dream into a reality.
I know how much Parker put into the project. He deserves a special round of applause for his commitment addressing some pre-game issues to ensure the show must go on.
Well done Gary.
And thanks to everyone in the Indigenous community for sharing in a tremendous sporting spectacle.