Quaden Bayles, a 9-year-old Australian boy who won the support of well-wishers around the world after being bullied for his dwarfism, has led out a rugby league team in front of thousands of cheering fans.
Bayles walked out with the National Rugby League’s Indigenous All Stars team ahead of an exhibition match against the New Zealand Maoris on Saturday.
He had been invited by the entire team in a video posted online, in which captain Latrell Mitchell told him: “We’ve got your back. We’re here to support you, bud.”
Earlier in the week Bayles’ mother Yarraka, from the Australian state of Queensland, posted a heartbreaking Facebook Live video to raise awareness of the impact of bullying. In the video, she said her son had previously attempted suicide.
“This is what bullying does,” she said in the video. “Can you please educate your children, your families, your friends?”
The video was viewed millions times after it was posted on Tuesday, with Bayles receiving a massive outpouring of support from around the world – and hundreds of thousands of dollars have been raised to send him to Disneyland.
The Maoris went on to defeat the Indigenous All Stars 30-16 in the game at Cbus Super Stadium in Australia’s Gold Coast, with Bayles getting a pitchside view.
Among the other famous faces to reach out to Bayles was Australian actor Hugh Jackman, who posted a video message to Twitter telling Bayles: “No matter what, you’ve got a friend in me.”
“Quaden, you are stronger than you know, mate,” Jackman said. “Everyone, let’s just please be kind to each other. Bullying is not OK, period.”