EXCITEMENT is building is the far west of the state, as all roads lead to Mount Isa this weekend for the annual NRL Development Queensland Outback Junior Challenge Under 14s and Under 16s Carnival.

Now in it's very successful fourth year, the carnival heads for the 1st time to the Northern Outback area of the State, previously being staged at Winton, Longreach and Barcaldine.
 
One of players to come through this carnival has been Coen Hess (formerly from the Black Stars Club in Mount Isa).

Coen played at the inaugural carnival at Winton in 2011 and since then gone on to represent Queensland Under 16s in 2012, Queensland Under 18s and Queensland 18s Schoolboys in 2013, and this year he has been a vital member of the Townsville Stingers Under 18s Mal Meninga Cup team that won state title last weekend.

Just recently, Hess made his debut for the NQ Cowboys NYC Under 20 side and he will no doubt be in the firing line for a spot in this year’s Queensland 18s team again.

This carnival gives many outback junior players an opportunity to play football at a representative level against opposition of a similar standard.
 
The Northern Outback teams are mainly made up of players that compete in the Mount Isa Junior Rugby League competition, whilst Southern Outback teams are selected from players from Winton, Longreach, Barcaldine, Blackall, Mitchell, Charleville and Augathella.
 
At the conclusion of the carnival, Queensland Outback Under 14s and Under 16s representative teams will be selected.
 
Delegates on The QRL Outback Advisory Committee have worked tirelessly to have the selected teams travel to Coolum on the Sunshine Coast so that the Under 14s can compete in the Glyn Rees Cultural Exchange City v Country Carnival on June 28-29, whilst the Under 16s can play similar level teams from the Sunshine Coast and South East Queensland areas.
 
The major significance of this is that with this representative pathway now firmly established on an annual basis, it may well open the door for future Outback teams to work to a level where they may be good enough to attend the QRL State Junior Championships in a few years.
 
Following the teams arrival into Mount Isa on late Friday afternoon, an official welcome dinner will be held at Alec Inch Oval (the home of Mount Isa Junior Rugby League).
 
Following dinner, as with all QRL Junior Carnivals, all the players will be put through a social responsibilities program which sees them being educated both on and off the field over the weekend.
 
Special guests attending the Carnival include Peter Betros (QRL Board Chairman), Geoff Orman (Chairman Queensland Juniors Advisory Board), Leigh Anderson (QRL Northern Division Chairman and QRL Board Member), Murray Hurst (NRL Welfare Officer and former NQ Cowboys NRL Coach), Michael Inman (NRL North Queensland Referee's Game Development Officer) along with Queensland Outback Advisory Committee Delegates Chris Waters (Cloncurry), David Kerrigan (Barcaldine) and Masina Taule'Alo (Mount Isa). 
 
Also in a major coup for carnival organisers, the North West Primary Schools Under 12s Rugby League trials are also being held at the same venue on Friday afternoon and Saturday morning, so junior footy followers in the Copper City are in for a Feast of Representative Football across the two days.
 
Saturday's Outback program includes games around lunchtime and then again late in the afternoon, followed by a Mid West A grade fixture featuring Mount Isa Clubs Town Lions and Wanderers Devils.
 
The Northern teams have totally dominated both age groups at the previous two NRL Development Outback Shield Carnivals, but rest assured their Outback Southern cousins will be ultra-keen to reverse those results, especially in their hosts own backyard.
 
For Southern 14s, they will no doubt rely heavily on Mitchell Hauff at halfback, elusive Caleb Richardson at fullback, speedy outside back Leslie Brotherton and hardworking forwards Kemp Ashwood and Wade Kangan.
 
Whilst the Northern boys will be ably lead by halfback Clayton Fenton, hard running centre Matthew Reid, blockbusting front rower Ben Fifita, and strong running backrowers Malachi Retchford and Kaine Hales.
 
In the Under 16s, Southern have Prop Peter Blucher and back rowers Jayden Aromoana and Logan Hauff to give them some go forward, with Bailey Davies controlling things at halfback, tackling machine Adam Hughes and the safe hands of Warren Drapper at the back.
 
The Northern lads have the dynamic duo of Stefan O'Keefe and Shaun Booth in in halves, hard running centre Hunter Chong, workaholic back rowers Sam Pattison and Isaiah Bell and Big Gavin Crisp up front in the engine room.  
 
The 2014 Mount Isa Junior Rugby Competition then continues on Sunday May 11 with a full round of fixtures for age Groups 7s, 9s, 11s, 13, 15s and 17s, with a total of 22 games to be played utilising the two fields at Alec Inch Oval. 

Previous Winners of the NRL Development Outback Shield Carnival:

Winton 2001

Under 14s - Northern Outback
Under 16s - Southern Outback

Longreach 2012

Under 14s - Northern Outback
Under 16s - Northern Outback

Barcaldine 2013

Under 14s - Northern Outback
Under 16s - Northern Outback

 
TEAM LISTS

NORTHERN OUTBACK UNDER 14s

1. Tallis Ahfat - Wanderers
2. Daile Coffison - Cloncurry
3. Matthew Reid - Town
4. Rhys Shelley  - Wanderers
5. Martin Neale - Town
6. Allan Clark - Wanderers
7. Clayton Fenton - Black Stars
8. Ben Fifita - Town
9. Darcy McDonald - Town
10. Dane Bracey - Black Stars
11. Malachi Retchford - Wanderers
12. Kane Hales - Wanderers
13. Trent Roberts - Black Stars
14. Malik Smith - Town
15. Korey Holt - Wanderers
16. Diega Teakkura - Wanderers
17. Mana McGregor - Town
18. William Todd - Wanderers

SHADOWS (5):

Michael Coffison - Cloncurry
Oliver Escott - Town
Peter Bocos - Black Stars
Tehima Snelling - Wanderers
Gordon Barry – Town

Coach: Mal Macrae
Assistant Coach: Bruce Nott
Manager: Graham Boyd
Trainer: Steve Retchford

SOUTHERN OUTBACK UNDER 14s

1. Caleb Richardson - Blackall
2. Graham Sullivan - Charleville
3. Will Parry - Blackall
4. Leslie Brotherton - Winton
5. Oliver Aitken - Charleville
6. Jack Radnedge - Charleville
7. Mitchell Hauff - Blackall
8. Michael Widgell - Charleville
9. Charlie Aitken - Charleville
10. Steven Wedge - Longreach
11. Rhien Leard-Lamont - Barcaldine
12. Kemp Ashwood - Longreach
13. Wade Kangan - Charleville
14. Matthew Delforce - Charleville
15. Kent Tanks - Winton
16. Jayden Bird - Blackall
17. Joseph Saffy - Charleville
18. Chance Marshall - Charleville

SHADOWS (5):

Reece Ryan - Charleville
Rueben Vaggs - Charleville
Baillie Green - Alpha
Flynn Hinds - Blackall
Joseph Franciscus – Winton

Coach: Nigel Steedman
Assistant Coach/FAO: Dwayne Kangan
Manager: Shaun Radnedge
LSO: Andrew Delforce

NORTHERN OUTBACK UNDER 16s

1. Schakarne Aitkens - Cloncurry
2. Michael Pengelly - Black Stars
3. Hunter Chong - Cloncurry
4. Korey Trott - Balck Stars
5. Cieron Botha - Wanderers
6. Stefan O'Keefe - Wanderers
7. Shaun Booth - Black Stars
8. Juniah Dotoi - Black Stars
9. Tristan Toby - Wanderers
10. Gavin Crisp - Cloncurry/Black Stars
11. Sam Pattison - Black Stars
12. Riley Barturen - Black Stars
13. Isaiah Bell - Wanderers
14. Bailey McDonald - Black Stars
15. Justin Guningham - Black Stars
16. Denzil Hill - Wanderers
17. Clinton Body - Wanderers
18. Marli Malama - Wanderers

SHADOWS (5):
Jack Maye - Black Stars
Meshak Bruce - Wanderers
Brennan Aplin - Wanderers
Dylan Auld - Black Stars
Masiah Hughes – Wanderers

Coach: Anthony Saltmere
Assistant Coach: Allan Baillie
Manager: Matthew Watts
Trainer: Scott Kyle

SOUTHERN OUTBACK UNDER 16s

1. Warren Draper - Charleville
2. Daniel McNamara - Blackall
3. Jamie Jackson - Longreach
4. Damian Robinson - Charleville
5. Blake Thomson - Charleville
6. Adam Hughes - Longreach
7. Bailey Davies - Longreach
8. Ben Dodd - Mitchell
9. Ben Richards - Charleville
10. Peter Blucher - Blackall
11. Jayden Aromoana - Charleville
12. Lachlan Ward - Charleville
13. Logan Hauff - Blackall
14. Jason Cutting - Longreach
15. Ben Smith - Charleville
16. Dwayne Matheson - Longreach
17. Mitchell Lawton - Charleville
18. Kaylop Draper - Longreach

SHADOWS (4):

Austin Jennings - Charleville
Coby Jeffrey - Charleville
Darnell Metcalfe - Cloncurry
Jordan Howard - Alpha

Coach: Mark Davies
Assistant Coach/FAO: David Kerrigan
Manager: Leah Jackson
LSO: Andrew Delforce

*NOTE: These team lists are subject to change