Rio Tinto partnership powers Indigenous Rugby outcomes

Reese (front row, second from the left) and her teammates at the National School Girls 7s Championships.
Reese (front row, second from the left) and her teammates at the National School Girls 7s Championships.

Rising rugby talent Reese Orcher has joined the Queensland Youth Academy of Sport Rugby Sevens program.

After initially earning selection in the Queensland Girls School 7s State Championships in May this year, Orcher has gone from strength to strength on the field.

Orcher’s progression was assisted by Rio Tinto and the Future Indigenous Leaders Program, delivered in partnership with the Queensland Rugby Union. In 2023 Rio Tinto committed $25,000 to boosting opportunities for Indigenous youth in rugby, girls and women in particular.

Orcher’s performances in the Queensland Girls School 7s State Championships saw her named in the U16 Lloyd McDermott Rugby Development Team – an all-Indigenous Rugby 7s team - to compete in the Australian Schools Rugby Championships in Sydney.

From there, Orcher was invited into the Queensland Academy of Sport Rugby 7s Youth Program, where she has linked up with some of the best young athletes in the state.

“The academy has really helped me advance my core skills,which has been really good in helping me in all the types of footy that I play,” Orcher said.

“We get to use some pretty advanced facilities here at the National Rugby Training Centre at Ballymore – the field is really good and we also get to make use of the gym and recovery facilities.”

Reese trains with the QAS Youth Program.

At the QAS, Orcher is mentored by former Wallaroos and Queensland Reds Captain and Olympic Gold Medallist Shannon Parry, who says Orcher has been among the standout rugby players this year.

“She has been an excellent performer and off the back of her recent performances has been selected in the QAS Talent ID 7s Team to attend a tournament in October in Sydney. She’ll be competing against some of the best athletes from New South Wales,” Parry said.

Following her inclusion in the academy, Orcher played for Downs Rugby in the Girls Junior State Championships at Ballymore Stadium in September. She was named in the ‘Dream Team’ for the tournament and will now join the Queensland U17s team.

“Reese was one of the best players at the tournament. Her high-performance, coupled with her hard-working nature, marks her out as a real player for the future,” Parry said.

Participating in so many tournaments – some interstate – comes at a cost. That’s where Rio Tinto’s support kicks in.

“As a single parent with kids, sometimes it’s tough to participate in the carnivals,” said Reese’s mother Melissa. “I am super appreciative of the support on offer.”

More than two-thirds of the overall $25,000 provided by Rio Tinto was allocated towards women’s programs, including supporting 18 girls who represented the Lloyd McDermott Rugby Development Team alongside Orcher.

The funding also supported two teams from Woorabinda in the Western 7s held in Emerald – the biggest 7s carnival in western Queensland with 63 teams playing 336 games across three days.

At Ballymore, assistance was provided for nine Indigenous players to participate in the Buildcorp Emerging Reds Cup where more than 200 boys from all over Queensland competed in the U15s and U16s carnival.

From there, Bailen Noy (Anglican Church Grammar School), who represented Brisbane White U15 at the carnival, was selected in the Queensland Reds Tier 3 Academy.

Malakaih Beals (Brisbane State High School, Brisbane White U15) and Callum Dalton (Southport School, Southeast Queensland U16) were also selected in the Queensland Reds U15 and U16 teams respectively following their performances in the carnival.

QRU Indigenous Strategies Manager Dylan Blackman said: “In 2023, more than 50 Indigenous rugby participants received direct financial support from Rio Tinto, helping further their development in rugby.”

QRU Head Of Commercial Pete Fairbairn thanked Rio Tinto for its contribution.

“We’re been a partner with Rio Tinto for more than a decade, using rugby as the conduit for leadership development. The difference we’ve made in that time to Queensland’s Indigenous youth is a source of pride. We’re unearthing genuine talent and we’re excited about what the future holds.”