Ipswich touch rugby league players with intellectual and physical disabilities are changing the game one try at a time — even offering playing tips to a legend of the game when he joins them on field.
The ALARA Jets began in 2013 after a member of the disability support service ALARA (an acronym for Access, Lifestyle support, Accommodation support, Respite care and Activities) wrote to his local league team, the Ipswich Jets, challenging them to a match.
Almost a decade later, the team has grown from four players to a full-size touch rugby league team with substitutes.
Jesse Palatinus began playing with the ALARA Jets four years ago and loves the opportunity to play.
"I have always loved playing rugby league."
In 2017, the ALARA Jets officially registered with Touch Rugby League (TRL) and now compete weekly against other local teams.
Fellow ALARA Jets player Harley Vestey said he aspired to a future career in footy.
"Big fan of it, hopefully, one day play professionally," he said.
For the 25-year-old, the sport is about "having fun and making new friends".
'They don't hold back'
Former Bronco and Maroons legend Darren Lockyer often played with the ALARA Jets saying it made him reminisce about his time on the field.
"There is a lot of cheekiness amongst the group, and it reminds me of when I was playing," he said.
"You know, the banter amongst the teammates.
"It is fun — and they definitely don't hold back.
Lockyer said the players were also quick to correct his performance during games.
He said teammates had egged him on with comments like, "Pick up your game, Darren" and "Really? You are on our team and you do that?"
'Exactly the same'
ALARA support worker Steven Edwards said the team had come a long way and continued to improve.
"They started out just training, then slowly they got known to play [against] other disability sides," he said.
"The more games they have been getting, the better they have become and the more enthusiastic they have become.
"They all aspire to being great rugby league players."
He said the ALARA Jets played exactly like any other touch rugby league team.
"Win or lose, they know that they have given us the best, and that's all we ask for," he said.
"You see them with a smile on their face, even when they lose."
TRL founder and executive chairman Tom Longworth said the ALARA Jets had proved to be an "incredible" addition to the competition.
"We just get so much out of having them in the competition," he said.
"It would be great to see more teams like the ALARA Jets get involved with sport.
"Lots of different sporting organisations are doing a lot in this space, but more can be done."