CHEERLEADER: Gemma Evans and the Gympie Hammers Rugby Union team, who have accepted her as their biggest fan.
CHEERLEADER: Gemma Evans and the Gympie Hammers Rugby Union team, who have accepted her as their biggest fan. Contributed

Meet the Hammers' favourite cheerleader

Hammers' biggest fan: Gemma Evans is the Gympie Hammers biggest supporter.
Hammers' biggest fan: Gemma Evans is the Gympie Hammers biggest supporter.

 

AT EVERY Gympie Hammers home game there is one distinct voice which rings out above the rest.

That voice belongs to Gemma Evans, the most passionate fan the club has ever had.

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The cheerful 14-year-old was chosen to toss the coin before the Hammers' last home game of the season on Saturday.

It was perhaps one of the biggest coin tosses Gympie has ever seen.

Gemma has cerebral palsy and her mother Shelley says the club has helped Gemma more than they could ever know.

"I would love to thank the team, the club, Macca (Hammers president Jason MacPherson), for all they have done and for accepting Gemma into the Hammers family," she said, holding back tears.

After the final whistle of their 33-5 loss at home to Nambour, the whole Hammers team posed with Gemma for a photo.

Shelley said the way the club had embraced Gemma had allowed her daughter to grow and develop skills which were often difficult for young people living with a disability.

"She loves them so much that when we did activities, we knitted a scarf and beanie in the club colours. We also made pompoms," she said. "It's done a lot of good for her, it's brought her out of her shell."

 

Shelley Evans, her daughter Gemma, and friend Lisa Kent.
Shelley Evans, her daughter Gemma, and friend Lisa Kent. Rowan Schindler

Shelley said it was difficult to get Gemma out, but her love of rugby union had become a catalyst for change.

"We did have a lot of difficulty taking her to new places," Shelley said.

"It's helped her socialise, it's helped her in her speech.

"She wouldn't do noise, or groups of people.

"Now she has players, supporters and even opposition players coming up to talk to her - it's just incredible."

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Shelley said sport was something she had not thought about for Gemma.

"There isn't a lot for people with disabilities to do in this town," she said. "There's bowling, but that's indoors. Gemma is an outdoor girl."

Shelley said Gemma's love for rugby union came unexpectedly, with the family primarily rugby league supporters.

It was her neighbour Lisa Kent and her son Jayden who introduced Gemma to the sport.

"We took Gemma down to watch a junior game in 2015. It might have been a school game," Lisa said. "She loved every minute of it. My son Jayden was playing and Gemma was yelling for him the whole game."

Jayden now plays in the back line for the Hammers.

Shelley agreed with Lisa, and remembered the game fondly.

"I think we were probably hiding from Gemma, because she was cheering so much," Shelley said.