The Western Queensland Outback Town of Cloncurry will come alive with rugby league this weekend as the Arthur Beetson Foundation Shield Northern v Southern Queensland Outback Junior Challenge Carnival comes rolling into town.
Now in its 7th year, the carnival heads to Cloncurry for the first time, after originally being held at Winton. Other venues that have held the carnival throughout the past years have been Longreach, Barcaldine, Mount Isa, Charleville before being staged again back at Winton last year.
The Arthur Beetson Foundation Shield is an important stepping stone for many aspiring young footballers. This is the year 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.
Other major supporters of this year’s carnival have been The Cloncurry Shire Council, Elliott Transport & Plant Hire Pty Ltd (Cloncurry), EHM Glencore (Ernest Henry Mine) and Discovery Park (Cloncurry), along with Commins Contracting Pty Ltd (Cloncurry) and Western Labour Hire (Cloncurry) as the sponsors of the Northern Outback Invitation A Grade side.
The carnival will be one of the Cloncurry Shire Council's major marquee events. Cloncurry has a rich and proud rugby league tradition with the Cloncurry Eagles A Grade team being the reigning premiers of the MIRL competition.
For this carnival, the Queensland Police Service and the QRL have joined forces to promote the opportunities in country Queensland for both 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 the QRL Outback Advisory Committee, the QPS recognised a great opportunity to engage with communities using QRL events to attract people to enjoy the games and take the opportunity to meet one-on-one with SARCIS, Police Recruiting and Crime Prevention officers. Inspector Mick Dowie said the idea has received the support of Commissioner Ian Stewart and QRL Board.
Continuing on from the success of last year, the carnival will include boys sides in the Under 14, Under 16 and Under 18 divisions competing to take home the shield.
This carnival is a breeding ground for many young players who reach higher-levels; one of those to come through this carnival has been Coen Hess (formerly from the Black Stars Junior Club in Mount Isa). Hess played as a 15-year-old at the inaugural carnival at Winton in 2011.
The Northern Outback Teams are mainly made up of players who compete in the Mount Isa Junior Rugby League competition, as well as Cloncurry and Normanton based boys, whilst Southern Outback teams are selected from players from the townships of Winton, Longreach, Barcaldine, Blackall, Charleville, Cunnamulla, Augathella, Quilpie, Mitchell and Roma.
At the conclusion of the carnival, Queensland Outback Under 14, Under 16 and for the first time Under 18 representative teams will be selected.
Once again, the delegates on the QRL Outback Advisory Committee have worked tirelessly over the past 12 months to have these teams travel to Coolum on the Sunshine Coast to compete in the Glyn Rees Cultural Exchange City-Country Carnival, on the weekend of June 23-252.
The much appreciated sponsorship and support of The Maintenance Company from the Sunshine Coast (Coolum) and Elliott Transport & Plant Hire Pty Ltd (Cloncurry) has allowed for lower player-levies for those selected.
At the Cultural Exchange carnival, the Queensland Outback teams will compete against teams from the South Burnett, Central Highlands, Warwick, Sunshine Coast and South East Queensland areas.
A feature of this year's carnival, will be the A Grade representative game between the Queensland Police team against the Northern Outback Invitation team, the invitation side will draw their players from those competing in the local Mount Isa competition.
The Queensland Police team arrived into Cloncurry late Thursday afternoon, after successfully winning the Australian Police Rugby League Carnival last weekend in Townsville.
Members of the Police team will be conducting school visits and clinics throughout the day before the carnival where they'll be accompanied by NRL Game Day Development officers, QRL officials and one of the carnival’s “special guests”, Stephanie Hancock (Jillaroo and captain of the Queensland Women's Rugby League team) and current serving Queensland Police Officer.
Stephanie Hancock in action for the Queensland Women's team
Whilst the Queensland Police team will no doubt be brimming with confidence following their success at the National Carnival, the Northern Outback Invitation boys have included some some "Big Guns" in their squad, on and off the field.
A host of players in the side have been members of Representative teams in the last few years and come into the game on the back of very good form in the local MIRL competition.
In "Coup" for carnival organisers, Wayne Smith (father of Cameron) will be a member of the Northern Outback Invitation team's coaching staff, whilst the Member for Mount Isa Robbie Katter will be also assisting the side as part of the team management.
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.
Game Draw and Times
Saturday, May 20 at Eddie Lee Field, Cloncurry
8.30am - Under 14
9.35am - Under 16
10.40am - Under 18
11.45am - Northern Outback "Invitation" A Grade vs Queensland Police Representative Team
1.20pm - Under 14
2.25pm - Under 16
3.30pm - Under 18
Saturday evening will see all players and officials, sponsors and invited guests attend the Outback Carnival Presentation Dinner were the Queensland Outback Under 14, Under 16 and Under 18 representative teams will be announced.