Hailed as the biggest one-day Rugby League carnival in the world, the annual ‘Riverina Football Carnival’ makes a welcome return this Saturday 6 August in Junee.
Bringing together 130 junior Rugby League teams, with boys and girls players ranging in age from six through to 15, the logistics of hosting such an event are near-military like.
The annual carnival celebrates its 78th edition this year having been held since 1943, apart from 2016 when it was cancelled due to wet weather making the grounds and parking areas unusable.
Showers are forecast for Saturday, but rain and chilly conditions are usual companions for the event.
“It’s such a marvellous tradition – held the first Saturday in August each year,” NSWRL Zone Manager David Skinner said.
“It would be the most significant football memory for any school kid in the Riverina area – starting with Laurie Daley and a host of other NRL stars just like him.”
The main venue is in fact Laurie Daley Oval – Junee being the home of the former NSW Origin captain and coach.
But the sheer number of players – upwards of 1,700 - means Burns Park, Junee Showground and Loftus Oval, which are all adjacent to Laurie Daley Oval, need to be employed.
Teams come from NSWRL’s Group 10 and 11 clubs across the state’s south-west; the ACT and even Victoria.
Every player receives a pennant to commemorate the event, plus there are age group trophies.
“There are kids who for years will hang their Junee carnival pennant up on their bedroom wall because it’s such a big deal in the area,” Skinner said.
“And there will be teams leaving Canberra at 6am to drive the 220 kilometres to get there on time. It’s a source of real pride to be part of it all.
“Any spare space around the Laurie Daley Oval precinct will be taken up by marquees from each club giving players somewhere to park their gear as they wait for their matches.
“It’s a massive event and one people look forward to for months in advance and keep talking about months afterwards as well.”
Some of the clubs who regularly enter teams include:
Griffith B & W Panthers; Tumut Minor League Blues; Red Bend College, Forbes; Wagga Brothers; Young Cherrypickers; Turvey Park Lions; Cowra Magpies; Yenda Blueheelers; Leeton Raiders; Coleambally Darlington Point Roosters; Gungahlin Bulls; Junee Diesels; Harden Hawks; Boorowa Rovers; Goulburn Stockmen; Bungendore Tigers; Griffith Waratah Tigers; Wagga Kangaroos; North Canberra Bears; Temora Schoolboys Dragons; Cootamundra Bulldogs; Valley Dragons; Gundagai Adelong Tigers; West Belconnen Warriors; Wagga Magpies; Tuggeranong Buffaloes; Albury Thunder; Wodonga Storm; Queanbeyan Kangaroos; Gungahlin Bulls; Yass Magpies.