Last weekend’s junior carnival in Dubbo, involving almost 500 players, has been hailed a success and is a taste of things to come according to the Country Rugby League.
CRL manager for the Western Region, Peter Clarke, said the response to the carnival, which saw teams from as far east as Lithgow and as far west as Nyngan was outstanding.
The gala day involved under 13s and under 15s rugby league teams and girls’ under 12s, under 14s and under 16s league tag sides from across the Western Rams region.
“It had a real carnival atmosphere. These sort of events disappeared for a while but there is a real desire and drive to bring them back,” Clarke said.
“We’ve had a look at the junior calendar and there used to be pre-season carnivals and we are looking to bring them back next year with one in Orange and one at Red Bend, Forbes, in April.”
Clarke said clubs really got behind the concept and pointed to the Grenfell Goannas, who caught a bus to Dubbo, leaving at 5am on Sunday just a day after playing at Condobolin.
“A lot of the kids at this carnival had never played anyone from outside their own patch so it’s great to have them taking on players from further afield,” he said.
League tag has been one of the growth areas for the Country Rugby League and Sunday’s carnival
“With the league tag as well, the number of boys and girls at the carnival was about a 50-50 split and that’s great to see,” Clarke said.
“Female participation in the sport is rising and that is only a good thing. We believe in the long term it will also help the male participation rise too.
Dubbo Junior Rugby League president Neil Milgate said the feedback from his players and their parents was overwhelmingly positive.
“Kids seem to really enjoy playing three or four 20-minute games over a day rather than just playing one match and going home,” he said.
“It really is great to see these kinds of carnivals back and the support they received from clubs that had to travel from Group 10 and the Lachlan Valley was really appreciated.”
Milgate said Group 11 clubs would be in attendance at both pre-season carnivals next year.
“We have to keep looking into ways to get young kids into the game and these gala days are one of the best things we have done,” he said.
“The introduction of the girl’s league tag is also great and Group 11 is looking into starting it next year if there is enough interest.”
Milgate said Dubbo teams performed well on Sunday, with some good displays in the under 13s and 15s.