The North Queensland Toyota Cowboys have opened nominations for the 2014 Laurie Spina Shield under-11s rugby league carnival which will be staged in conjunction with the round 16 NRL clash against South Sydney in June.
Team nominations will close on Friday 2 May with organisers hoping to again reach the maximum entry of 64 teams from across Queensland.
The two-day carnival, presented by Guildford Coal, honours the first captain of the Toyota Cowboys, Laurie Spina, and is one of the largest junior rugby league events held in the country each year.
The preliminary rounds, as well as the quarter-finals and semi-finals, are held at the Brothers club in Townsville, with the finalists having the honour of playing on 1300SMILES Stadium prior to the North Queensland v South Sydney NRL match on Saturday, 28 June.
“Each year, we have close to 1000 kids running around playing and enjoying rugby league for two days and then getting the chance to see an NRL game live,” Cowboys game development manager Ryan Mahoney said.
“For the last two years, we’ve hit the capacity of 64 teams so the best bet for clubs who wish to be here in 2014 is to get your nomination in early.”
Nine teams played in the inaugural carnival in 1997 and it is estimated the Laurie Spina now generates more than $1 million for the Townsville community each year.
In 2013, the clubs represented ranged from Mossman in the north, south to Tannum-Boyne Seagulls and west to Mt Isa’s Townies and Wanderers, while every Townsville rugby league club entered at least one team.
Centrals Tigers from Townsville won the grand final, with Mareeba Gladiators as runners-up.
Cowboys NRL squad members Ray Thompson, Kyle Feldt, Anthony Mitchell and Michael Morganare among the Laurie Spina Shield graduates.
Spina, who will again present the Shield and has attended every day of action over the past 16 years, said he was thrilled with how the competition had grown.
“What is also important to us is that the focus of the carnival is on participation, sportsmanship and enjoying the greatest game of all,” he said.
An added feature of the carnival is the Fastest Feet relay conducted at halftime of the NRL game and open to each of the competing Laurie Spina teams.
To be eligible to play in the carnival, the juniors must turn 10 or 11-years-old in 2014.
Each team will receive a pack of giveaways from the Toyota Cowboys.
To nominate, go to www.cowboys.com.au/laurie-spina-shield.