Jobs Events Advertise Newsletter

'On a number of radars': Sienna-Estelle Burraston is a cross-code star on the rise

Andrew Mathieson -

Rhett Burraston is entitled to a parenting boast probably more than most dads standing the sidelines are allowed over his vastly overachieving daughter.

When multi-football star Sienna-Estelle Burraston last year was selected into the New South Wales Australian rules girls’ primary school state team, Rhett had the cheek to ask what happens should his daughter get named in a NSW rugby league state team over concerns of availability, and he was bluntly told “she won’t get picked for league”.

But she did in the most unimaginable way.

As the proud father of the recently-turned 13-year-old Ngemba and Mandandanji girl wrote on a Facebook post in June: “Don’t tell my daughter she can’t do something. She is not scared, isn’t afraid of hard work and has a big heart, and you can’t coach that.”

Playing the dual football codes was not even what the boast was primarily about.

Sienna-Estelle that day became the first-ever female named in the NSW rugby league boys' state PSSA squad after leading the Sydney South West zone to the 2023 statewide title.

For an undersized player, even for her age, playing club rugby league with girls one day, but mixing it with much larger, pre-teen boys the next between the rough and tumble of state representative rugby league is almost hard to fathom, let alone witness, but she does without fear.

The backrower in league but also a rugby union loose forward phenomenally makes the identical mark as the first lone girl in the 15-a-side NSW ‘A’ boys state PSSA rugby squad ever.

That contributes her success across five sports, including four footy codes along with Australian rules and rugby sevens and that number of state representations in a calendar year is only a feat known by two other NSW primary school pupils of either gender.

But as Rhett casually points out in a National Indigenous Times exclusive, there might be something in the family’s gene pool that explains how Sienna-Estelle plays beyond not only her years but above the average ability when she tries her hand at a sport.

(Image: supplied)

It also explains why both Burrastons take their sport very seriously.

“I am probably the toughest on her, between me and her own self, like her harshest critic,” he says.

“Actually, she’s her own harsh critic.

“She’s always been pretty gifted at all of her sports.

“We’re Beetsons – you know Arthur Beetson?

“There’s also a couple of Beetsons related to us coming through the juniors too.”

That name Beetson will prick the ears of rugby league fans more than it might do in the traditional Australian rules states.

But comparing arguably the greatest Indigenous rugby league player, the late Arthur Beetson, is akin to likening to Aboriginal VFL/AFL revolutionary footballer, Graham ‘Polly’ Farmer, of the same generation of the 1960s and 1970s.

“He was pretty multi-talented – he excelled at squash, at boxing, I think even cross-country, as well as at the (Eastern Suburbs/now Sydney) Roosters,” Rhett says.

“It’s like the genes skipped me – my biological father was a sports allrounder, and so is Sienna-Estelle.”

(Image: supplied)

It is hard enough to juggle four football codes and admits after wearing the traditional NSW sky blue singlet five years in a row, athletics is more of an afterthought.

The tetrathlon event, the junior girls’ equivalent to the heptathlon, combines the 100 metres, long jump, shot put and the 800 metres, has Sienna-Estelle bored in between the track and the field.

“Football has always been her passion,” Rhett admits.

“Last year, she went to five different states in the year and we were away more than eight times, just for sport.

“I haven’t done the maths on the cost, but you can’t do everything.”

But the teenager was also hardly backing down from a busy sports schedule after this year beginning her secondary education at Westfield Sports High School to harness a sport she wants to focus on.

The choice of sports this year is to ensure that even at just turning 13 early in the year that she is set to be at her peak for every sport, or football code, she decides on in what was a difficult decision.

“She gets asked to do different sports every now and then, and this year being a bit more mature and coming into high school, we both were agreed about now being a bit more considered,” she said.

“That goes to not playing league this year over an overexertion of carrying a team and a tendency for more injuries.”

The call was made despite dreaming of playing in a future NRLW Canterbury Bulldogs team over time, quitting local club Eaglevale St Andrews Magpies after multiple years of turning out for the club’s under-12s and under-14s girls’ sides.

(Image: supplied)

It might be emotionally tough being in such demand, but father and daughter realise it was only going to be a matter of time before they have to set standards high.

“She really wanted to play under-16s because it would be a bit more competitive, but she’s not allowed to,” Rhett explains.

“She’s still doing rugby league because she’s at a sports school and because she’s also there for a league program.

“But for her (playing club under-14s again) it would be like an NRL player coming into play local club third-grade, without trying to sound arrogant.

“It’s a bit hard for us to find a team that can cater for her competitive needs.”

Sienna-Estelle has only got a taste of a competitive environment when she gained special dispensation to run out for Mindie Sisters under-17s last October at the famed NSW Koori Knockout tournament.

That moment would have been lost this year returning back to the game among much smaller bodies playing in a barely pubescent girls’ club competition.

Rhett wrote on social media that when he asked his 12-year-old daughter how did she find her much-older teammates and tackling larger opponents, Sienna-Estelle sharply replied, “They swear a lot, and half of them have tattoos, they’re nice (and), I like it.”

“She had less reservations than me playing five years up,” Rhett added, “but I tell you, she didn’t look one bit out of place.”

That opens up more challenges that she charges head first like retired NSW Blues warrior Paul Gallen looking to burst through a Queensland Maroons defensive line.

(Image: supplied)

“She’s on a number of radars,” Rhett says.

“The Giants was a formal invitation, then last year a coach from the Wests Tigers girls’ squad has seen her play, and because she was 12, they offered a (NRLW development) spot, but really nothing came of it.

“Someone from the Waratahs (rugby) came and looked at her for the sevens program.

“It’s good she’s on the radars of some of the scouts and a few player managers also do know of her, but you can’t do anything really until she’s 15, and that’s fine.”

The latest interest was professional club GWS Giants already contacting Sienna-Estelle about considering an AFLW development program.

She was still trying to perfect the Australian rules drop punt at the Ingleburn Magpies, but there’s no problem with intimidating opponents from one of her stiff tackles.

Never say never, but at this stage it’s almost a thanks but no thanks to the Indigenous game of Australia's.

“I was pretty surprised because last year was my first year playing AFL, and I made all these teams for NSW and that,” Sienna-Estelle says.

“I didn’t think I would make a Giants squad or anything.

“It’s pretty fun because in AFL they’re kind of soft because when I tackle them, they all think I’m gonna hurt them.”

(Image: supplied)

Rugby sevens is possibly the biggest threat to win his daughter over among the league family full of Burrastons, always donning supporters’ royal blue and white Bulldogs’ gear to head off to watch Canterbury play some weekends.

The Australian Raptors rugby academy that works under the framework and also the auspices of the Rugby NSW invited Sienna-Estelle to join their under-13 sevens trial before enduring intense academy training to head off on a tour to Japan next January.

Their aim is to expose young talent to the ideas of playing foreign conditions and against their teams, and to visit coaching clinics and the concepts behind similar rugby academies.

Sienna-Estelle admits that among all her sporting experiences that an overseas rugby trip could influence on what she wants to pursue in the future.

“League has been my No.1, my favourite sport and the main thing I have done for the past couple of years, but I don’t know if I’ll play it this year,” she says.

“But I want to make it in league.

“But also I’m pretty excited to go overseas next year because the last (and only) time I went overseas I was only like five and that was just to Bali.”

   Related   

From one coast to another, Wallam finds a touch of family in her team's Indigenous design
Donnell Wallam’s defining leap onto the game’s horizon after landing from quite...
Andrew Mathieson 24 May 2024
Culture Round bringing Indigenous communities closer to Super Rugby competition
Next to finally capping for Australia in a not-so-distant Wallabies’ future, it...
Andrew Mathieson 24 May 2024
Phil Krakouer law suit to grow into Indigenous class action against the AFL
Legal proceedings by Phil Krakouer and on behalf of his brother Jim and other In...
Andrew Mathieson 24 May 2024
Hornby backs Latrell for Origin return
South Sydney interim coach Ben Hornby says Latrell Mitchell “wouldn’t let anyo...
Martin Gabor 24 May 2024

   Andrew Mathieson   

Culture Round bringing Indigenous communities closer to Super Rugby competition
Next to finally capping for Australia in a not-so-distant Wallabies’ future, it...
Andrew Mathieson 24 May 2024
Phil Krakouer law suit to grow into Indigenous class action against the AFL
Legal proceedings by Phil Krakouer and on behalf of his brother Jim and other In...
Andrew Mathieson 24 May 2024
From one coast to another, Wallam finds a touch of family in her team's Indigenous design
Donnell Wallam’s defining leap onto the game’s horizon after landing from quite...
Andrew Mathieson 24 May 2024
AFL system failing to engage Indigenous players amid slump in numbers
An AFL system fixated on discovering the most elite Indigenous footballers has b...
Andrew Mathieson 22 May 2024