Rugby league fans around the world have been moved after a wonderful moment for bullied school boy Quaden Bayles in Saturday night's NRL All Stars match.
Bayles, the nine-year-old boy with dwarfism whose story has captured the hearts of people all over the world, was given the honour of leading the Indigenous team in the annual match against the New Zealand Māoris on the Gold Coast.
'PARENTS NEED TO STEP UP': NRL legend hits out over tragic bullying video
The youngster came out of the tunnel hand-in-hand with Indigenous captain Joel Thompson to the sound of raucous cheers against the backdrop of traditional Aboriginal music.
Fans rose to their feet to salute Bayles as he strode out onto the field, with Indigenous wings Josh Addo-Carr drawing a big grin out of the youngster.
He was then called over to stand in the middle of the field for a photo with the game ball, following the pre-game photo involving the opposing captains.
Bayles was invited by the Indigenous team to take part in the match after the story of his bullying had garnered global attention.
Fullback Latrell Mitchell appeared on a video inviting the youngster to have the pre-game honour ion leading the side out onto the field.
“We’ve got your back and just want to make sure that you are doing all right ... we want you around, we want you to lead us out on the weekend,” Mitchell said.
The outpouring of support for Bayles came after his mother Yarraka posted a video of the effects of school yard bullying on her son.
“This is what bullying does,” she said into the camera as tears streamed down her son's face.
“I’ve just picked my son up from school, witnessed a bullying episode, rang the principal, and I want people to know, parents, educators, teachers, this is the effect that bullying has,” she said.
“Every single ... day, something happens. Another episode, another bullying, another taunt, another name-calling. Can you please educate your children, your families, your friends?”
The clip has since been viewed millions of times, with Aussie actor Hugh Jackman among a raft of high-profile stars to send messages of support.
Jackman told Bayles: “You are stronger than you know,” and urged everyone to be kind.
Bayles' mum admitted that the kind words from around the world had seen Quaden “going from the worst day of his life to the best day of his life”.
The youngster was described as "inspirational" on Saturday night as his big moment at the All Stars match moved viewers.
This is heartbreaking - the outpouring of love and support for young Quaden and victims of bullying has been inspirational and life affirming and so lovely to see his beautiful smile again 💙 #BeKind— Haydn Cox (@HAYDNIAM) February 22, 2020
What an inspiration, young Quaden Bayles. In a way, the natural cruelty of children is often the lack of maturity, hence it's the responsibility of parents, and teachers to educate children from a very early age. But bullying by adults, is unforgivable and shameful!— chatterman1 (@chatterman1) February 22, 2020
May God bless you for doing this, you rock! Quaden is an inspiration to all of us.— Donegal Insurance (@donegalins) February 22, 2020
Hi Quaden, let me say that you are a very brave boy who is an inspiration to many worldwide. You are leaps and bounds ahead of those bullies. Best wishes from Geoff and Michelle from the U.K.— Geoff Wall-Davis (@GeoffWallDavis) February 22, 2020
This is fantastic. Go Quaden, you’re an inspiration. Never let the bullies win!!!! https://t.co/x4Thrspx4c— Andrew Broom (@AndrewBroom4) February 22, 2020
Smith stars as Maori side comes up trumps
Brandon Smith stole the show to inspire the Maori's 30-16 win over their injury hit Indigenous rivals in Saturday's NRL All Stars clash on the Gold Coast.
All eyes were on NSW centre Latrell Mitchell's first crack at the Indigenous No.1 jersey, lining up a mouth watering showdown with Maori and Queensland fullback Kalyn Ponga.
While both showed flashes of brilliance, Melbourne rake Smith upstaged everyone with a stunning, late two-try display that brought the 23,599-strong crowd to their feet.
It added insult to injury for the Indigenous outfit who lost Wade Graham (ankle), Tyrone Roberts (ankle), Josh Kerr (knee) and Chris Smith to what they fear is season ending ACL damage.
Remarkably Smith's heroics almost never happened, with Maori coach David Kidwell he was tempted to take the workaholic rake off the field before his match turning display.
"We were actually going to take him off there for a second but I am lucky I made the call to leave him out," he said.
"He just keeps surprising, he keeps going. It''s not a fluke that he does that stuff (but) coming into an environment like this it just elevates him to another level."
After the Maori led 12-10 at halftime, the game appeared to be broken open in the 57th minute when James Roberts turned around Ponga and scored off a David Fifita bust to give the Indigenous outfit a 16-12 lead.
Enter fan favourite Smith.
First he barged over in the 69th minute to snatch back the lead.
He was at it again four minutes later, only to be denied by the video referee for a double movement.
But there was no doubting his next effort when he burrowed over under the posts in the 75th, all but ensuring the Maori avenged their 34-14 loss last year.
Centre Dylan Walker iced the result with an 80th-minute try.
The Maori's only complaint was losing co-captain and winger Dallin Watene-Zelezniak (back).
In the fullback duel, Mitchell came up trumps in his first big one on one test with Ponga after the Maori No.1 made a 35th minute bust, only for his Indigenous opposite number to cut him down.
He also pulled off another try-saving tackle but in the end they shared honours before Mitchell played the majority of his second stint on the field in the centres with Alex Johnston at fullback.
A bit of history was made in the 65th minute when the first captain's call was used by Maori's Adam Blair when he queried a knock on against Kenny Bromwich but it was unsuccessful.
The captain's call is also being trialled in the Charity Shield clash before a decision will be made on whether to adopt it for the 2020 season.