'Thousands on the way': Ipswich prepares for invasion
PREPARING for a welcome netball invasion, Gail Lyne knows what to expect at this weekend's State Age Championships at Limestone Park.
The Ipswich Netball Association president has overseen four previous state titles at the city's impressive Doris Howes Complex.
However, the latest four-day championships will feature more than 2500 players from 44 netball associations.
The players, aged from under 12 to 15, will showcase their skills in more than 1600 games starting at 8am on Saturday.
That includes the addition of boys' teams for the first time.
"This is the biggest state age that's ever been held,'' Lyne said, expecting thousands of visitors to Ipswich during the carnival.
"Ipswich is very proud to host the best netballers in Queensland, who during their time here, will score more than 30,000 goals.
"There is no doubt some future champions of Australian netball will be among these players.''
Netball Queensland official Tom Mitchell agreed as Ipswich's 24 upgraded courts will be used across the four days.
"State Age is our biggest event all year - it's massive," Mitchell said.
"Players and spectators will need to keep their eyes peeled for Firebirds players who will be making appearances throughout the event.''
Junior players will be coming from as far away as Mareeba, Innisfail and Biloela.
Ipswich will be represented by seven teams - two 12 years sides, two 13 years teams, two 14 years sides and a 15 years team.
Ipswich last hosted the State Age Championships in 2013.
Lyne won a Queensland Service to Sport Award last year for her decades of netball work.
However, she said it was due to her dedicated Ipswich committee and volunteers that Ipswich was well placed to host their fifth State Age Championships this weekend.
"Be organised,'' she answered when asked what she learnt from the previous titles at Limestone Park.
"Have everything in place.
"We've all got a job to do from traffic management to cleaning up the courts to securing the courts during play.
"We're doing it all.''
The opening ceremony is scheduled for 1pm on Saturday.
Lyne said Ipswich's courts and adjacent parklands were valuable assets, able to cater such a big event.
The wide open spaces next to the courts allow a tent city to be established for teams to plan their strategies and rest after matches.
"This is great for the local economy, and it is a chance for the people of Ipswich to show visitors the friendly hospitality that this city is known for,'' Lyne said.
The championships will be contested by age groups from 12 and under to 15 and under. Two age groups will play in the morning and two in the afternoon.
Ipswich's seven teams were selected six weeks ago.
Ipswich Netball representative co-ordinator Kerry Moore was delighted to have so many sides from the city playing after an intensive selection lead-up and skills and drills program.
"Each week, the girls improved and improved so it was quite a hard decision in the end (to finalise the teams),'' she said.
Moore said the new state titles playing schedule would encourage more sportsmanship.
She said teams were already fine-tuning their war cries for the weekend.
Netball Queensland CEO Catherine Clark was also excited the competition was returning to Ipswich.
"Ipswich Netball Association have a rich history hosting State Age,'' she said.
"We've been eager to return to the region since the titles were last hosted in 2013.
"The new split competition format will deliver the most efficient championship in history.
"Athletes will spend more time on court and less time waiting between games.
"Our Competitions Strategy Group has worked hard on the new championship format to deliver the best possible experience for our netballers.
"It provides a great opportunity for our netball community to experience the many exciting off-court experiences we have in store and the fantastic sights Ipswich has to offer."
Ipswich is hosting the State Age Championships at Limestone Park from Saturday until Tuesday.
Here's some fast facts:
252 teams (247 girls teams and five boys teams);
44 netball associations from across the state;
more than 2500 young players;
more than 1600 games played across the four days.