Primary students at schools on Palm Island and across Townsville are paying special attention to their attendance and behaviour as excitement about playing in this year’s Obe Geia Junior Rugby League Challenge builds.
To be held on Palm Island on Friday 12 September, the carnival will bring together some 400 players, teachers and supporters when students from nine Townsville schools travel to the island to join students from St Michael’s and Bwgcolman schools for a day of rugby league and cultural exchange.
It’s a unique carnival for local Palm Island kids who get the chance to play some home games in front of their family and friends, and the youngsters from the mainland, who get to travel to the island to experience its hospitality, culture and environment.
Importantly, each young footballer has earned the right to play in the carnival thanks to their regular attendance and positive behaviour at school during the year, and as part of their reward for their efforts each player will receive a 2014 Obe Geia player T-shirt from the North Queensland Toyota Cowboys.
Now in its sixth year and named in honor of Obe Geia Jr, the first Palm Islander to play in the NRL, the Challenge is a partnership between the Palm Island community and the Cowboys with support from the NRL, Sealink, Bun Lek Solutions, Dreamtime Training and Evolution Mining.
Ignatius Park College students will also travel to the island to assist with refereeing and lend a hand in running the day.
“It’s a huge day for many of the kids, but a very enjoyable and educational one as well,” North Queensland Toyota Cowboys community relations manager Fiona Pelling said.
"It's four hours of travel for those who come from Townsville or Magnetic Island, plus a couple of kilometres walking and then five modified length games of rugby league.
“Once all the teams have arrived we all take part in a community welcome to country which includes some traditional dancing from the Palm Island locals.
“We really encourage all the kids, once they're invited, to join the dancing because it’s a great ice breaker and really sets the atmosphere for the day.”
As well as giving children from Palm Island and the mainland the chance to play some footy, the carnival gives the local community an opportunity to showcase the island and its culture.
The event also aims to strengthen interschool relationships and promote sport, health and fitness.
Matches will begin at 10am with the final round starting at 3pm, followed by presentations at 3.20pm.