THERE’S no better place for the young Muswellbrook Mambas to ply their trade than the NSW Touch Junior State Cup.
And, that’s where the local association’s five sides – 10 years’ boys, 12 years’ boys and girls, 14 years’ girls and 16 years’ boys – will venture this weekend.
The premier junior representative event, conducted at Port Macquarie’s Regional Sports Stadium and Tuffins Lane complex from Friday to Sunday, is touted as the biggest sporting carnival in the southern hemisphere.
In fact, from 2019 onwards, due to its enormous recent growth, the cup will be split into two conferences with finalists progressing to a state final.
“It’s a learning year for a lot of our kids,” Muswellbrook Touch Association junior director Paul Benkovic said.
“So, it’s a great opportunity for them to learn new skills – and have a good time.
“I guess our best chance is the 14 years’ girls.
“They’re more experienced [than the other teams] because they’ve played together since the 10s.
“But, we seem to struggle every second year, due to the age groups.
“Unfortunately, a few of the older players are taking the field for other clubs, such as Singleton and Nelson Bay.
“However, I’d rather see them do that than be lost to the game altogether.
“It will be a different story [for Muswellbrook touch] in 2019.
“We’ve got a few [positive] plans in place.”
Benkovic believes Muswellbrook will be a touch stronghold for many years to come.
“We’ve had good success, in all the major tournaments,” he said.
“And, a number of former players have made their marks in the sport, too.
“Even recently, at the Peter Wilson Memorial Championships, ex-juniors Emily Harmon and Josh Moffitt were named under-18 players of the tournament respectively.
“That Hunter Western Hornets Regional Touch event boasted more than 130 teams and 400-plus matches.
“Our 14 years’ girls made the semis before being beaten 5-1 by Orange.
“It’s also the first time we’ve had a 10 years’ boys [representative] team in the past five or six years.
“It was good to see them in action.
“They’re as keen as mustard [for this weekend].
“The association wishes all the sides good luck at Port Macquarie.”