The 2014 edition of the Laurie Spina Shield, presented by Guildford Coal, will feature a team from the Northern Territory for the first time.

Organised by the North Queensland Toyota Cowboys in honour of their first club captain, this year’s carnival will be held in Townsville on Friday 27 June - Saturday 28 June with the grand final teams to play off as a curtain-raiser to the round 16 NRL match between the Cowboys and South Sydney at 1300SMILES Stadium.

For the third straight year, the carnival is at capacity with 64 teams in the draw, including the NT Titans from Darwin as well as three clubs from Mt Isa, the Central Cape Suns from Weipa, Normanton Stingers, Toowoomba Brothers, North Ipswich Tigers and Burleigh Bears from the Gold Coast.

They will all get the chance to play at least seven round-robin matches at Townsville Brothers’ complex in Kirwan.

Several current Cowboys NRL and NYC squad members have the Laurie Spina Shield on their playing history, including fullback Michael Morgan who helped to launch the 2014 carnival with Laurie Spina, North Queensland’s captain in 1995, at Cowboys HQ today.

Now closing in on 50 NRL matches for the Cowboys, and a member of the Queensland Emerging Origin squad, Morgan wore the colours of Townsville Brothers when he took part in the annual under-11s carnival in 2002.

Toyota Cowboys game development manager Ryan Mahoney said the great response from junior clubs was another indication of how much enjoyment the Laurie Spina Shield provides to young footballers.

“It’s really pleasing to have so many clubs come back year after year and to see some new teams in the draw for 2014,” Mahoney said.

“Once again, thanks to Guildford Coal, we have a fantastic two days of footy and fun planned for the almost 1,000 kids who will be taking part in a total of 199 matches.

“It’s a highlight of our year here at the Cowboys, especially when you get to see the grand final played under the lights in front of a big crowd at the stadium.”

Nine teams played in the inaugural carnival in 1997 and it’s estimated that this year’s event will contribute more than $1 million to the Townsville community.

“To once again have a capacity lineup of 64 teams is just great for the carnival and I’m looking forward to seeing all the kids enjoying their rugby league for the two days coming up next week,” Laurie Spina said.

“While it is a competition and we’ll present the shield to the winning team at the stadium before the Rabbitohs game on the Saturday night, the focus of this carnival is always on participation, sportsmanship and enjoying the game of rugby league.”

An added feature of the Laurie Spina is the Fastest Feet relay which will be held at half time of the Cowboys v Rabbitohs game.

Each of the 64 teams will enter a squad to take part in the relay conducted from sideline to sideline.

>>> 2014 Laurie Spina Shield – TEAM LIST