Northern Outback claimed the inaugural Arthur Beetson Foundation Shield after a big weekend of junior rugby league at Winton in western Queensland.
Victories in the U-14s and U-16s in last weekend’s Outback Challenge delivered Northern the shield. Southern Outback, however, triumphed in the U-18s.
The Queensland Outback teams were also selected.
Players came from bush towns such as Charleville, Quilpie, Mount Isa, Blackall, Barcaldine, Longreach, Doomadgee, Cloncurry and Mitchell and had travelled up to 800km for the contest.
The carnival was honoured to have special guests attend for the weekend including QRL chairman Peter Betros, QRL head of football Neil Wharton, Central Division chairman Danny McGuire and QRL education and welfare manger at the NRL Murray Hurst, who is a former Cowboys head coach.
The matches were followed by a presentation dinner in the Winton Shire Hall with about 250 players and guests attending. The inaugural Arthur Beetson Foundation Shield was presented and the 2016 Queensland Outback teams were announced.
Also, Winton Mayor Butch Lenton was awarded QRL Central Division life membership by Mr McGuire for his outstanding service to rugby league not only in Winton but also in Central West Rugby League.
Cr Lenton has been a player, coach, administrator and just an all-round good guy in rugby league for many years. Hs family were on hand to witness the honour and presented a video of his contribution to league.
This was the first year that the QRL and Queensland Police Service partnered to help the police to encourage applicants from the Outback areas into a career in the service. Members from the Police Stock Squad and Recruiting and Media attended and spoke to the players about what opportunities were available in the QPS.
This year the challenge also welcomed the sponsorship of the Arthur Beetson Foundation and the carnival was fortunate to have Big Artie’s three sons, Brad, Christian and Scott attend the carnival and conduct the presentations of the Arthur Beeston Foundation Shield. They had travelled from the Sunshine Coast and Sydney to attend.
Also on the weekend Mr Hurst delivered education sessions designed to help the players to become responsible adults and community members.
The local Queensland Ambulance Service instructed the U-18 teams in CPR.
Finally, the players also witnessed a domestic violence vigil organised by the Winton police during which the players impressed with their respectful attention to the presentation and observation of a minute’s silence for those affected by domestic violence.
It is hoped that carnivals such as this also serve to lift spirits and provide a welcome distraction in drought-hit part of the state.