A team of Indigenous all-stars invited Quaden Bayles, the 9-year-old Australian boy who has quickly garnered international attention, to walk out with them before Australia's National Rugby League all-star game on Saturday at Robina Stadium. The story of Quaden, who is Murri, went viral after his mother, Yarraka Bayles, shared a video of him in tears and admitting to feeling suicidal after being bullied in school. The original video earned millions of views and inspired a GoFundMe page that reached over $400,000.
The day after the original video was shared, Indigenous rugby players showed their support for Quaden, who was born with a common form of dwarfism. On Wednesday, the Indigenous NRL All Stars team invited Quaden to walk out on the field with them.
"Just want to wish you all the best, brother. We know you're going through a hard time right now but the boys are here, we got your back, we're here to support you, bud. And we just want to make sure that you're doing alright," South Sydney Rabbitohs star Latrell Mitchell said in the clip, reports Australia's ABC News. "Your mum's on your side, we're on your side and [we want to] make sure you're thinking the right things, bud, because we want you around."
"We want you to lead us out on the weekend. It's gonna mean more to us than it will to you, bud. So just make sure you're looking after yourself and hopefully we get to see you in the next couple of days," Mitchell added.
"He will be involved in leading the team out. He will be involved in the dressing sheds and I am assuming he will in photos with his favourite players and receive some gear," Indigenous All Stars coach Laurie Daley said Wednesday. "There are a lot of things that we can do. I reckon he will have a good couple of days."
On Friday, Bayles and Quaden met with the players. During a press conference, Bayles told reporters Quaden dreamed of becoming a rugby player, but knew his condition made that impossible.
"They're all his uncles; [he's] related to most of them so they've always been there, but... we could never have dreamt in our wildest dreams that it would've gone worldwide," Bayles said of the players.
"These uncles of his and our brothers and cousins are living the dream that he only dreams of," she added. "This is the closest thing for him to be able to get out on that field for him to play football. And if all he can do is run the boys out then that's enough for us."
Quaden is a fan of the Rabbitohs, and the team's star Cody Walker said his teammates are excited to help Quaden.
"One of the vehicles in Aboriginal communities is rugby league. This game's very important within those communities," Walker said. "So what better way than to get Quaden down here on the GC, be a part of our team, lead us out like the young warrior he is and show him that we love him, that the broader community love him and he's doing a wonderful job in standing up [to] this type of behaviour."
Since Quaden's story grabbed international headlines, there were questions about his authenticity, with some claiming to have "evidence" he is really 18. However, Snopes debunked that, pointing out he was previously on an Australian news show in 2015 when he was 4 years old and his mother has been sharing photos of him growing up on social media for years.