If you were walking the streets of Cloncurry on Friday you would have seen kids everywhere and they all converged on the Recreation Ground’s Eddie Lee Field on Saturday.
The youths representing under 14s, under 16 and under 18s were there for the Outback Junior Rugby League Challenge Carnival this year badged as the Arthur Beetson Foundation Shield, honouring one of the greats of outback rugby.
The event was an excellent curtain raiser to this year’s C150 celebrations in town and the town was packed with players, officials, parents and supporters.
The boys played each other twice in each grade with the QRL Outback Advisory Committee to select the best players to travel to Coolum on the Sunshine Coast to compete for Queensland Outback in a City-Country Carnival next month.
QRL outback coordinator Rob Crow said they were delighted to bring the festival to Cloncurry for the first time.
“The hospitality has been great and we had some great education sessions at the school yesterday (Friday) with the Queensland Police Service,” Mr Crow said.
“The players are enthusiastic and there is plenty of talent in the games. We’ve got chairman of the selectors Wayne Smith (Cameron Smith’s father) here too.”
Barcaldine-based Dave Kerrigan, Central West rugby league chair and founding member of the Outback committee, said the festival had been going for nine years and in 2011 the festival discovered Coen Hess who now plays for the North Queensland Cowboys in the NRL.
“Rugby league is part of our culture and brings communities together, this gives everyone an opportunity to play sport,” Mr Kerrigan said.
“Next year hopefully we will be able to include the under 12s as well as 14s and 16s and in the seniors we’ll got to 18s, 20s and A Grade.”
Also in attendance at the Festival were the finest rugby league players from the boys in blue, although this Queensland Police side lined up in maroon against against another set of boys in blue, the Northern Outback Invitation team, whose players were drawn from those competing in the Mount Isa Rugby League competition coached by Wayne Smith.
The QPS side was coach by Garry Watts, a detective inspector and president of the Queensland Police Rugby League association.
“We hosted the Queensland Police rugby league series in Townsville last weekend and as a result of that we were invited to come out here by the QRL and Cloncurry Shire Council to play in today’s game and the boys really embraced it,” Mr Watts said. “The boys had a great day with the schoolkids doing coaching clinics.”