Excitement is building among junior rugby league officials in Outback Queensland as all roads on Saturday lead to Winton for the revamped Arthur Beetson Foundation Shield Northern versus Southern Queensland Outback Junior Challenge Carnival.

Now in its very successful sixth year, the carnival heads back to Winton, which was the venue that hosted the original carnival in 2011. It’s since been held in Longreach, Barcaldine, Mount Isa and last year Charleville.

Read more about last year's carnival in the Central Division annual report

The Arthur Beetson Foundation Shield is an important stepping stone for many aspiring young footballers.

This is the first year that the carnival has received sponsorship for the event. It is indeed fitting that an icon of Queensland, Australian and bush footy has his name attached to the trophy.

For this carnival the Queensland Police Service and the QRL have joined forces to promote the opportunities in country Queensland for young men and young women. 

The Queensland Police Service also faces challenges in the attraction and retention of police officers and support staff working to serve rural and remote communities and see opportunities to recruit people ‘from the bush to work in the bush’. 

In discussions with Geoff Orman (QRL Outback) about these recruitment and crime-prevention issues, the Queensland Police Service recognised a great opportunity to engage with communities using QRL events as an entertainment platform to attract people to enjoy the matches and take the opportunity to meet one-on-one with Stock and Rural Crime Investigation Squad (SARCIS), Police Recruiting and Crime Prevention officers. 

Inspector Mick Dowie said the idea was developed and had received the support of Commissioner Ian Stewart and QRL Chairman Peter Betros who recognised both organisations provided for “many backgrounds, many pathways and many opportunities” to rural and remote farming communities and they supported police face-to-face community engagement with our QRL partners at these events.

This year the event has grown to include sides from Under-14, Under-16 and Under-18 competing to take home the shield. This carnival has been a highlight for the boys from the Outback each year and is getting stronger by the year.

This carnival is a breeding ground for many young players who reach higher levels; only recently the state finals for the Cyril Connell (CC) and Mal Meninga (MM) Cups contained seven players on the day that had their first taste of playing our great game, when gracing the dusty ovals in the Outback area of the state. An absolute marvellous achievement.

One of the many players to come from this carnival has been Coen Hess (formerly from the Black Stars Junior Club in Mount Isa). Coen played as a 15-year-old at the inaugural carnival at Winton in 2011 and has since gone on to represent Queensland Under-16s in 2012, Queensland Under-18s in 2013 and 2014, and last year he was a vital member of the NQ Cowboys Under-20s team and the winning Junior Kangaroos Under-20s side, culminating in him making his NRL debut against the Auckland Warriors and scoring a try.

It’s fitting that whilst this carnival is being played, Coen has been named to play his second NRL match for the NQ Cowboys against the St George-Illawarra Dragons on Saturday.

This carnival gives many Outback players an opportunity to play representative football 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 the townships of Winton, Longreach, Barcaldine, Blackall, Charleville, Augathella, Quilpie and Mitchell.

Whilst the selected Northern-area-based players have the luxury of playing in an underage club competition throughout the season, some of their Southern cousins don’t have the opportunity to play in any regular competition.

At the conclusion of the carnival, Queensland Outback Under-14s, Under-16s and for the first time Under-18s representative teams will be selected.

Once again the delegates on the QRL Outback Advisory Committee have worked tirelessly over the previous 12 months to have these selected 14s, 16s and 18s teams travel to Coolum on the Sunshine Coast to compete in the Glyn Rees Cultural Exchange City-Country Carnival, on the weekend of June 24-26.

The much appreciated sponsorship support of The Maintenance Company from the Sunshine Coast (Coolum) has allowed for lower player-levies for those selected.

Also once again, a massive thanks to the ongoing support of the QRL Board for continuing to support the Outback concept with increased funding for the program each year.

At the Cultural Exchange carnival the QLD Outback teams will be competing against teams from the South Burnett, Central Highlands, Warwick, Sunshine Coast and Southeast Queensland areas.

After the team’s arrival into Winton on Friday, there’ll be a welcome barbecue for all officials and players.

Following this, as with all QRL junior carnivals, all players and team staff officials will be put through a NRL Development and Welfare social responsibilities and educational program, which sees all carnival participants being educated both on and off the field.

Special guests who will be attending this year’s carnival include:

  • Peter Betros – Chairman QRL Board
  • Danny McGuire - Chairman QRL Outback Advisory Board
  • Inspector Michael Dowie – Queensland Police Service
  • Murray Hurst – NRL Education and Welfare
  • Brad Beetson – Arthur Beetson Foundation
  • Peter Rafter – Outback Operations Manager – QRL Central Division

Also attending the carnival will be delegates from the QRL Outback Advisory Committee, Geoff Orman (independent), Rob Crow (co-ordinator), Chris Waters (Cloncurry) and David Kerrigan (Barcaldine).

Saturday night will see all players and officials and invited guests attend the Outback Carnival Dinner, were the Queensland Outback Representative teams will be announced.

Thank you to the following for making this carnival possible.

  • Arthur Beetson Foundation
  • The Maintenance Company
  • Winton Junior Rugby League
  • Winton Senior Rugby League
  • Winton Shire Council
  • Queensland Police Service
  • Queensland Rugby League
  • Queensland Outback Advisory Committee
  • Triple Play
  • Imparja Television
  • Phoenix International Freight Forwarding
  • Agforce
  • Mount Isa Rugby League
  • Qantilda Quarters
  • Diamantina Garden Dormitories
  • North Gregory Hotel Motel

Click the below links to open PDF files of the Under-14, Under-16 and Under-18 teams for the Outback Junior Challenge Carnival. (Teams are subject to change.)

Under 14

Under 16

Under 18