The North Queensland Toyota Cowboys have opened nominations for the 19th Laurie Spina Shield under-11s rugby league carnival, to be staged in conjunction with the round 16 NRL clash with Cronulla in June.
Team nominations will close on Friday 8 May with organisers hoping to again reach the maximum entry of 64 teams.
The two-day carnival, won this year by Mackay Magpies, 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.
In 2015, it will carry even more significance as part of the Cowboys' 20th anniversary celebrations.
The preliminary rounds, as well as the quarter-finals and semi-finals, will be held at Brothers in Townsville, with the finalists having the honour of playing at 1300SMILES Stadium prior to the Cowboys v Sharks NRL match on Saturday 27 June.
Spina, who will again present the shield, has attended every day of action over the past 18 years, meeting almost every team member who has taken part.
“It’s really special to see almost 1,000 kids running around playing and enjoying rugby league for two days and then getting the chance to watch a Cowboys NRL game live,” Spina said.
“A few years ago we reached the capacity of 64 teams and we’ve maintained that level ever since which is great for our sport.
“What is also important to me and the Cowboys is that the focus of the carnival is on playing the game, being a good sport and enjoying being with your mates.”
Nine teams played in the inaugural carnival in 1997 and it is estimated the Laurie Spina Shield generates more than $1 million for the Townsville community each year.
Cowboys NRL squad members Ray Thompson, Kyle Feldt and Michael Morgan are among the competition’s graduates.
An added feature of the two days is the Fastest Feet relay, conducted at half time of the NRL game and open to each of the competing Laurie Spina teams.
To be eligible to play in the carnival, juniors must turn 10 or 11 years old in 2015.
Each team will receive players' packs from the Toyota Cowboys.