Some 500 kilometres west of Brisbane, Roma has the state’s oldest winery, the nation’s biggest cattle saleyards and was the site of some of Australia’s earliest oil and gas exploration. It’s the hub of the Maranoa district and has produced football legends Arthur Beetson and Darren Lockyer.
What are your fondest memories of Roma?
Playing football in the backyard with my brother and his friends – it was an afternoon ritual. When rain came, we celebrated it, splashing around in our togs and gumboots.
Describe the community there.
I grew up in town but my extended family lives on properties around Roma. I was very fortunate to have so many good people around me; their support made me the sportswoman – and the person – I am today. People say there aren’t so many opportunities in small towns but for me, they were everywhere. I played soccer, touch football and netball and did athletics, swimming and cross-country. We used to muster and do gymkhanas and my family was really into campdrafting, too.
What took you away?
I went to boarding school at Fairholme College in Toowoomba from Year 9. I played touch football there and then, eventually, I represented Australia at the 2011 World Cup. I was scouted to Rugby Sevens while I was doing a Bachelor of Sport, Health and Physical Education at The University of Queensland then made my debut in Dubai in 2012.
How often do you go back to Roma?
A few times a year but that’s not as often as I’d like. I just love it out there.
Has it changed much?
Not really. Walking around town, I see the same smiling faces and people are always up for a chat. It’s grown a bit since I left, due to the coal seam gas industry, but it’s basically the same old town.
What’s your favourite thing to do there now?
Relax as much as possible. I like to see my friends and family over a barbecue. I love going for training runs there. It’s strange to run on a red-dirt road with no-one around; the heat and rock-hard ground make it tough but it’s a good challenge. I always seem to come back to Sydney fitter and stronger.
Is there anything you miss about Roma?
The freedom, the peaceful lifestyle and the quiet. And the lack of traffic! You waste a lot of time sitting in traffic in Sydney. Roma feels like home; it makes me happy.
Name something about Roma that you think would surprise outsiders.
The Roma Saleyards is amazing and it’s always packed. They run tours so you can see all the action and watch the cattle being moved in and out like clockwork.
What are two things every visitor should do?
Head up to Carnarvon Gorge, north of Roma. It’s so beautiful there. I love running along the trails and walking across the creek on the stepping stones. There are caves, rock pools, canyons and some very cool Aboriginal rock art. Roma’s Easter in the Country festival is pretty awesome, too.