The young boy led out the National Rugby League's Indigenous All Stars team at an exhibition match in Queensland over the weekend.
Following years of bullying and a week that saw him being hailed as both a star and an alleged con-artist on social media, 9-year-old Quaden Bayles got to forget his troubles for a few moments on Saturday. The young Aboriginal Australian smiled wide as he led out a rugby league team before thousands of cheering fans at an exhibition match in Queensland over the weekend. For Quaden—who according to his mother Yarraka Bayles dreamt of becoming a football player himself—walking out with the National Rugby League's Indigenous All Stars team was the closest thing to his dream coming true.
According to CNN, Quaden's special moment occurred ahead of the indigenous rugby league team's match against the New Zealand Maoris. He was invited by the entire team in a video posted online last week after a heartbreaking video of the boy wanting to take his life went viral. As we previously reported, the video—which has since been deleted—was filmed and posted online by his devastated mother upon seeing her son break down following yet another bullying incident over his dwarfism. Bayles revealed that she's had to keep an eye on Quaden around the clock as he has made several suicide attempts since the age of 6, with some very close calls.
In a video posted online, the entire Indigenous All Stars team invited the young boy to lead out the side for their match on Saturday. Extending their support to the 9-year-old, captain Latrell Mitchell said, "We've got your back. We're here to support you, bud." During a press conference ahead of the match, Bayles revealed that her son was "very excited" to lead out the team at Robina Stadium. "We've always had amazing community support, especially from the footy boys," she said, reports ABC.
"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 continued, adding that although her son dreamed of being a footballer himself, he'd come to accept that it may never come true. "These uncles of his and our brothers and cousins are living the dream that he only dreams of. 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."
Meanwhile, South Sydney playmaker Cody Walker said that giving Quaden the opportunity to lead out the team was perhaps the best way to show the Rabbitohs fan that he is loved by the team and the community. "One of the vehicles in Aboriginal communities is rugby league. This game's very important within those communities. 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 behavior," said Walker.
The viral video of a boy who was bullied for his dwarfism has been taken down. Here's how the Quaden Bayles story unfolded. https://t.co/Qloq494gG5— Insider (@thisisinsider) February 22, 2020
As support for the boy spread across the globe, with even the likes of Hugh Jackman and comedian Brad Williams reaching out, things took an unexpected turn for the worst when a controversy surrounding his age gained momentum. Many netizens speculated that he was actually much older than his mother claimed—an allegation that has been determined false by fact-finding website Snopes. However, conspiracy theories targetting Quaden and his mother continued to pop up online, the duo seems to have deleted their entire social media presence. Even the dwarfism awareness group, Stand Tall 4 Dwarfism, set up by Bayles appears to have been deleted.
"However loving the intention behind posting this video was (and I can well understand this mother's desperation), the fact is that for the rest of the boy's life his name will likely always be associated with it," writes @Lollardfish https://t.co/mdICig9wYK— CNN Opinion (@CNNOpinion) February 22, 2020