Australian representative player, Marikki Watego opens up about the start of her touch footy career, co-captaining the Indigenous All-Stars and her future in commercial law.
By
Marikki Watego

Source:
University of Queensland
12 Mar 2016 - 8:00 AM  UPDATED 12 Mar 2016 - 8:00 AM

The beginning of my touch footy career

I started playing in Year 4 (about 9-years-old) and the teacher needed some extra players. At the time I was doing surf live saving, so I was pretty fit and the teacher was like, “Yeah, you can run so come and have a go”. 

I got serious in Year 6 when I was selected in my first New South Wales state team. from there, I thought, “Oh, maybe I have a bit of skill at this game so I’ll give it a try.” I haven’t looked back.

The importance of the Indigenous All-Stars

Giving back

NRL Souths Rabbitohs' player Greg Inglis summed it up in interviews he gave during the lead-up to the Suncorp Stadium game on 13 February 2016. He said it’s about community and for a lot of Indigenous people, especially NRL players, it’s a time to give back to the community and really get in touch with those young kids that look up to players as idols and role models.

For us as touch football players, we only went into camp on the Thursday before the game, but we also had the opportunity to run a few touch football clinics out at Whites Hill in Brisbane. That was really special because there were kids there who knew some of the All-Stars players by name and had seen them on YouTube, so it was really great to interact with the kids and know you’re giving back and interact with people that possibly look up to you and really admire what you do.

Playing for your people

It’s also that opportunity to play for your people. And across a lot of codes I don’t think there is that opportunity to play as Indigenous people in a team and really be proud of who they are and their culture.

So for me, playing for my people and my community is a really big highlight of the All-Stars concept.

Playing at Suncorp Stadium in front of a crowd of 38,000 people

From the very start where there was the indigenous war cry, it was electric in the stadium. You could just feel the emotion everyone was feeling, being proud of seeing their role models, being proud of who they are.

It was such a great experience. At the touch football world cup last year in Coffs Harbour we attracted a few people but nothing like 38,000 at Suncorp.

It was such an invigorating experience to run out on Suncorp. You picture yourself doing that when you see all the NRL players running out there, and to get that opportunity was amazing.

Winning the trophy and playing on a mixed team

It was really great to walk away with the trophy again. Our standout players, we had so many in our team because we’ve just got such a diverse range of skills. Not many know it was a mixed team. There's aren't many other sports where you get the opportunity to play in a mixed team. 

It's a really tough game. As a female your opposition could be a male standing opposite you. It's definitely quite challenging and there is a lot of skill and structure. It's enjoyable both on and off the field.

Plans for the year

Our touch football calendar is just kicking off right now, so we have our national competition, it’s called the Elite Eight Series in Coffs Harbour starting this weekend. After that, an Australian team will be selected for the Trans-Tasman Series held in April in New Zealand, so I have my fingers crossed I perform well at nationals and get the call-up. There's also the State of Origin Series in September.

My future in commercial law

I graduated from the University of Queensland's School of Law last December. I initially studied a Bachelor of Business Management/Arts but soon discovered I was more interested in law than business. So I transferred to a Bachelor of Laws/Business Management. 

I've just started a placement in Gadens Lawyers' graduate program, a natural progression from my two-year internship there. 

My mob is the Mununjali/Yugambeh people from Beaudesert, and I'm largely influenced by my heritage. That's why I wanted to understand the intricacies of Australian law and its effects, both positive and negative, on indigenous people.

So many aspects of the law have the potential to incite real change for indigenous people. Of course, areas of law such as Native Title is relevant to Indigenous people, but I want to pursue a career in commercial law. That way I can help Indigenous people start and maintain their own businesses using my expertise and contribute to their economic independence and confidence by providing sound legal and commercial advice. 

Marikki Watego to display Midas touch at Elite Eight series
Australia's best talent comes together to face off at the National Touch League (NTL) and Elite Eight titles this weekend.