One of the country’s biggest junior rugby league carnival is set to yet again take over Brothers rugby league grounds and 1300SMILES Stadium with the 20th staging of the annual Laurie Spina Shield.
Proudly supported by the North Queensland Toyota Cowboys and Fantastic Furniture, the two-day under-11 carnival – from Sunday 26 June – will for the fifth straight year feature a capacity 64 teams representing much of Queensland as well as interstate entries.
Six Townsville clubs will be represented, but the bulk of the competing teams will travel for the carnival, the climax being Monday’s grand final, played as the main curtain-raiser to the Round 16 National Rugby League match between the Cowboys and the visiting Manly Sea Eagles at 1300SMILES Stadium.
“We’ve got teams coming from many areas in regional Queensland, plus a team from the south-east corner and even two interstate entries,” Cowboys game development manager Liam Bartlett said.
“The Cowboys are unique in that our footprint is geographically the largest of any club in the NRL, and this carnival reflects and continues that culture of communities coming together.”
Aside from attracting a number of teams from North Queensland – including the Burdekin, Hinchinbrook, Charters Towers, Mackay and Cairns regions, plus west out to Mount Isa – the carnival will also welcome teams from central Queensland, an entry from Weipa and a new entry from South Australia.
“We are welcoming back the Northern Territory Titans, while for the first time, the NRL South Australia Adelaide Rams will bring a team all the way to Townsville, which we’re thrilled about,” Bartlett said.
“This carnival is the biggest event we run and we’re excited that it continues to grow in terms of reach and attracting new teams.”
The 64 teams will be divided into eight pools of eight teams, and each side will play six pool games before crossover finals matches, culminating in the grand final on Monday 27 June at 5.40pm.
The Townsville-based Western Lions – whose team the Pride won the 2015 Shield – will again enter a team (the Roar), while other Townsville clubs competing include Brothers, Centrals, Upper Ross, United Suburbs and Norths Thuringowa.
Named after Ingham product and inaugural Cowboys captain Laurie Spina, the shield is one of the largest single-age rugby league carnivals in the country, with almost 1,000 boys and girls competing.
Participants will also have a chance to say g’day to their Cowboys heroes at a signing session at club HQ after the NRL team's final training hit-out on Sunday.
Another favourite of the weekend will be the Fastest Feet Relay, where eight players from each team compete in a relay race across the 1300SMILES Stadium field at half time of the Cowboys-Sea Eagles match.
“It’s a wonderful spectacle to see more than 500 kids completely cover the field; the colours of all the club jerseys is just outstanding,” Bartlett said.