Seventy-two junior rugby league teams from across the state have rubbed shoulders with their North Queensland Toyota Cowboys heroes this weekend, as they descended on Townsville for the 26th annual Laurie Spina Shield, supported by Localsearch.
The Laurie Spina Shield is the largest junior rugby league carnival in the southern hemisphere, combining two huge days of on-field action with a feast of football activities, including a meet and greet with Cowboys players and the chance to take to the field at Queensland Country Bank Stadium.
Eight pools of nine under-11 teams will play 244 games over the two-day carnival at Townsville Brothers on day one, before eight teams are selected to participate in four games on Saturday as curtain raisers to the Cowboys v Tigers NRL game kicking off at 5.30pm.
With a focus on participation, the Laurie Spina Shield was established in 1997 and is named after the Cowboys inaugural captain Laurie Spina, with a shield presented in his honour.
Laurie played his junior rugby league in the Herbert River district, playing 169 NRL games for North Sydney Bears (1983-84), Sydney Roosters (1985-89), Cronulla Sharks (1990) and North Queensland Cowboys (1995).
Teams have travelled from far and wide to attend, including two teams from the Torres Strait Islands as well as groups from Brisbane, the Gold Coast, Mount Isa and Far North Queensland.
While select teams will have the chance to play the greatest game of all on the Cowboys’ home ground, a lap of honour pre-game will also give carnival participants the chance to walk a lap of the stadium in front of family and friends.
At NRL half time, every team will have their opportunity to shine as part of the popular Fastest Feet relay, as the playing arena fills with juniors eager to show their speed across the width of the main field.
The spectacle of the Laurie Spina Shield is one that nine current Cowboys will remember well, with Kyle Feldt, Mitchell Dunn, Reuben Cotter, Tom Dearden, Valentine Holmes, Gehamat Shibasaki, Tom Chester, Robert Derby and Jake Bourke all having played in the carnival as juniors.
For Cowboys Gold Partner Localsearch, this year’s carnival continues a long-term commitment to grassroots rugby league in the North and to the values celebrated and shared by the teams, players, officials and supporters alike.
Gates open at Queensland Country Bank Stadium on Saturday at 3.30pm with the Laurie Spina Shield curtain-raisers kicking off at 3.40pm – tickets on sale now.