TALENTED rugby league junior Maia Pensio was named player of the match after playing alongside the best juniors in the state at the Vic Jensen Carnival last week.
The Cooktown Junior Rugby League under-11 player was earlier this year chosen to represent Cape York as part of the Peninsula team, and on Monday headed to Townsville for the carnival.
The team played games every day against the rest of the state’s up-and-coming footballers, and the young player said being part of the Peninsula team was a great experience.
“I loved it,” Maia said.
“Getting to know my teammates and making 14 new friends from Far North Queensland was cool.”
Proud parents Liesl and Toby were cheering from the sidelines, and said the calibre of players at the carnival was amazing.
“He was excited to finally play with the Peninsula team but nervous because of the reputation and calibre of some of the teams from down south,” Ms Pensio said.
“The competition is of a really high standard, and Peninsula only joined the carnival in 2019, so they are relatively new.”
Despite going in as the underdogs, the Peninsula team gave as good as they got, losing by only two points in their first game against Northern, then copping a 24-nil thrashing by Met North, drawing 12-all against Met East, losing by two points to Wide Bay and finishing the carnival with a close 22-18 loss to Darling Downs.
“Maia was actually awarded the coach’s award for Peninsula team and player of the match for the game against Darling Downs,” Ms Pensio said.
“It was amazing for Maia to play against the likes of the sons of NRL legends Darren Lockyer and Matty Bowen.”
Ms Pensio said getting her son to the carnival was a team effort, with the support of the Cooktown Junior Rugby League Club and fellow football parents Wayne and Jacynta Hunt, who shared the driving to get Maia to training.
“Maia and Chase (Hunt) were picked for the district team and had to travel to Atherton for weekly training, and without Wayne and Jacynta, Maia wouldn’t have been able to attend those sessions.”