Emma Paki with the under-12s school girls touch trophy she won in Adelaide last year.
Emma Paki with the under-12s school girls touch trophy she won in Adelaide last year. Contributed

Emma’s magic touch

EMERALD touch footballer Emma Paki is living proof that regional players can have as big an influence on the national stage as those from the city.

The 13-year-old sporting star was selected for the Queensland under-12s schoolgirls to compete in the Pacific Games, more than 2000km away in Adelaide and was the sole representative from a regional town.

Emma played a pivotal role as link for her side, who albeit dramatically, defeated New South Wales 5-4 in the final, as she recalled fondly.

"We were down by two with only a few minutes to go but we were able to tie things up and then in the last minute we scored," the Marist College student said.

"I stepped in and then stepped back out and passed to the winger to score to make it four-all.

"We had been really nervous and were just so happy to beat them. I loved that.

"I am one of those people who hate NSW because of State of Origin so it was so good to beat them."

Fellow touch star and Emerald local Tamika Upton has shared a similar pathway to the top as Emma, naturally making her an inspiration.

But it was in the backyard with her brother Will, five years her senior, where the sporting skills developed.

Rockhampton touch footballer Tamika Upton.
Rockhampton touch footballer Tamika Upton. contributed

"We would play together since I was really little, maybe six, we would be in the backyard every afternoon," Emma, also a talented netballer and sprinter, said.

"It was really fun playing with him, and he would help a lot.

"He taught me how to throw long passes, spiral passes and how to step.

"He is much bigger than me but was soft, sometimes, but we would wrestle and it did turn into tackle a few times.

"Tamika is my hero because she is also a local girl who plays link and has had a similar pathway to me.

"If she can do it there is no reason why I can't.

"It would mean so much to play for Australia and follow Tamika, it means even more coming from a regional town.

"That is my goal."

Emma joined up at Emerald Touch when she was eight-years-old and said the club, particularly head coach Daria Wills had allowed her to succeed.

She plays every Wednesday night and has development sessions with Wills once a week.

"Daria has helped out so much, she teaches me all the specific drills and helps my fitness," she said.

"Fitness is definitely the hardest part in the sport and she has shown me the way.

"She developed fitness-based drills for me to do which are pretty hard but really work."

Emma has targeted the u15s state side this year and is on track to emulating her hero Tamika.


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