The 2015 edition of the Laurie Spina Shield, presented by Fantastic Furniture, is set to feature a team from the Torres Strait for the first time.
Organised by the North Queensland Toyota Cowboys in honour of their first club captain, this year’s carnival – the 19th staging of the event in the club’s 20th anniversary year – will be held in Townsville on Friday and Saturday, June 26-27.
The grand final teams will play off as a curtain-raiser to the round 16 NRL match between the Cowboys and Sharks at 1300SMILES Stadium.
With nominations now closed, the carnival is at capacity for the fourth-straight year, with an expected 64 teams to compete for the 2015 title.
Teams will travel significant distances to be part of the event, including the NT Titans from Darwin as well as two clubs from Mount Isa, Toowoomba Brothers, Beaudesert Kingfishers, Springsure Mountain Men and a Torres Strait combined team.
The event will also have the continued support of North Queensland teams, including the Edmonton Storm (Cairns), Sarina JRL (Mackay region) and the Bowen Seagulls.
Long-time supporters of the carnival include Townsville-based clubs Brothers, Centrals and Western Lions.
They will all get the chance to play at least six round-robin matches at Townsville Brothers’ complex in Kirwan.
Several current Cowboys NRL and NYC squad members have the Laurie Spina Shield in their playing history, including five-eighth and recent State of Origin debutant Michael Morgan and Cowboys squad members Ray Thompson and Kyle Feldt.
Toyota Cowboys game development manager Liam Bartlett 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 2015,” Bartlett said.
“Once again, thanks to Fantastic Furniture, 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 one of the highlights of our season here at the Cowboys, especially when you get to see the grand final played 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 economy.
“To once again have a capacity lineup of 64 teams is just great for the carnival,” 1995 Cowboys captain Laurie Spina said.
“I’m looking forward to seeing all the kids enjoying their rugby league over the two days of the event.”
An added feature of the annual event is the Fastest Feet relay, a spectacle held at half time of the Cowboys v Sharks game where the teams compete sideline to sideline.