One of Australia's biggest junior rugby league carnivals has hit town again with more than 1,100 youngsters set to descend on Townsville for the annual Laurie Spina Shield, presented by Localsearch.
For the seventh consecutive year the Under-11s competition, which is hosted by the North Queensland Toyota Cowboys, will feature a capacity 72 teams and an enormous 263 games of rugby league.
Games will be played across Friday and Saturday with the final to be played at 1300SMILES Stadium on Saturday evening as a curtain-raiser to the NRL Cowboys v Dragons match.
"There is no other junior rugby league carnival like the Laurie Spina Shield in Australia," Cowboys game development manager Liam Bartlett said.
"We have teams coming from across Queensland as well as the Northern Territory and one from the Torres Strait Islands.
"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 a large number of teams from North, Central and South East Queensland, the Northern Territory will be represented by the NT Titans, the Zendath Kes Stingers will fly the flag for the Torres Strait Islands and the Augathella Meat Ants will make the journey north from Western Queensland.
Another highlight of the weekend will be the Fastest Feet Relay, where eight players from each team will compete in a relay race across the 1300SMILES Stadium at half-time of the Cowboys-Dragons match.
"It's a wonderful spectacle to see more than 500 kids completely swarm the field; the colours of all the club jerseys is just outstanding," Bartlett said.
All players will have an opportunity to rub shoulders with Cowboys players at a signing session at Cowboys HQ on Friday morning and one player and representative from each team will take part in a lap of honour at 1300SMILES Stadium prior to the Cowboys-Dragons showdown on Saturday evening.
What: 2018 Laurie Spina Shield
When: Friday 20 July – Saturday 21 July
• Competition games – Friday/Saturday, Townsville Brothers rugby league grounds, Kirwan
• Final – 5.45pm Saturday, 1300SMILES Stadium
• Fastest Feet Relay – NRL half time, Saturday, 1300SMILES Stadium