Ballymore Beat: the remarkable Ellas joined by trio of Oates brothers

Wed, Jun 12, 2024, 11:09 PM
Jim Tucker
by Jim Tucker
The Oates brothers (from left) Chace, BJ and Kye wearing UQ's 2024 Indigenous jersey
The Oates brothers (from left) Chace, BJ and Kye wearing UQ's 2024 Indigenous jersey

The Oates boys, Kye, BJ and teenager Chace, have emulated the famous Ellas as three Indigenous brothers together in a try-happy backline.

The astonishing feat had a special magic just four minutes into University of Queensland’s clash against Wests at St Lucia last Saturday.

Flyhalf Chace, 18, fed dynamic centre Kye, 24, who veered by two defenders before passing to winger BJ, 25, for the try.

The score unfolded over nearly 70m and Stan Sport commentator Martin Lippiatt could barely hold it together: “There’s more Oates than a pack of Uncle Tobys.”

Just a hint of a comparison to Mark, Glen and Gary is rich praise indeed because the Aboriginal trio bamboozled defences when they emerged for Sydney’s Randwick club in 1978.

All rose to become Wallabies.

The famed “Ella…Ella…Ella” commentary call became a rugby classic as a Mark pass, loop and cut-out ball ignited an interplay of brothers who seemed to have a telepathy such was their uncanny understanding.

“I wouldn’t call our understanding telepathy. I’ve played a lot with BJ to have a feel for his game and when he’ll bob up. We’ve played backyard footy with Chace back since we were kids,” Kye said.

“To play these past two games in first grade together, with mum and dad watching, has been pretty special. Not everyone gets to say they’ve played together as three brothers.

“Mum is the one who always sends highlights of the Ella brothers into our family chat group so I know of them.”

For Chace, the opportunity of playing with his brothers became more of a possibility when he landed at UQ this season after finishing Year 12 at Toowoomba Grammar.

“It’s always been a childhood dream so these games together have been a bit surreal,” said Chace, who started the season in Colts.

“To be honest, it’s a bit unexpected for the chance to come so quickly but it’s been a lot of fun out there.

“With another brother (Coen), we played a lot of backyard footy together as kids at Highfields. It was lots of fun and we all had to be ready to duck a few of the higher tackles from BJ.

“To wear an Indigenous jersey for my starting debut (against Bond University) was actually really meaningful. It’s a nice touch to see so many more Indigenous jerseys in all competitions.”

The UQ Indigenous jersey was designed by Emma MacNeill, a proud Yamatji Martu woman from the Kimberley.

The symbols feature a boomerang for the men’s team, digging sticks for the women’s, a shield for protection, blue hands for support and connected red circles representing diverse origins and unity in the game.

The early family try wasn’t the end of it against Wests. A neat switch from Chace to Kye put big brother in for his own try in a rollicking 68-41 thrashing.

Kye won the gong as Premier Rugby’s top player when awarded the Alec Evans Medal in 2021.

Oates and his UQ teammates wore Indigenous training jerseys for Thursday night trainings throughout that premiership season.

A painting by cousins of the Oates, from their mob on North Stradbroke Island, was used as the basis of the jersey.

It was part of a season-long theme to get more connected to each other and their club so it showed off and on the field.

Off the field, Oates explained to his then-teammates the connection to land and how important that is to Aboriginal people.

“It’s really special to be able to share from my culture,” Kye said.

“When I first started in Premier Rugby, you didn’t really have Indigenous jerseys. It’s now pretty cool to see so many clubs doing it. They are pretty deadly, kids love to see the jerseys and they create more awareness of Indigenous culture.”

Kye works as a student support officer at Loganlea State High in the Beyond The Broncos Learning Program to help enhance learning experiences in Years 10-12 for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander kids.

“It is a mentoring role and very satisfying to see Indigenous kids getting through school. Attitude, academics, behaviour and cultural connection…they are all part of it,” Kye said.

The big win over Wests has nudged UQ into the top four in the StoreLocal Hospital Cup ahead of Saturday’s Round 11 clash against improvers Norths at Courtney Field.

For fifth-placed Wests, some deep soul searching and starch in the pack has to be found to steady a leaking ship. The Bulldogs host Sunnybank at Sylvan Road on Saturday.

Premiers Brothers are at home to Easts while GPS and Souths meet at Ashgrove.

By Jim Tucker