Top experience puts young players in the zone
IPSWICH is preparing to stage Australia's longest-running junior rugby league carnival.
The Under 12 Zone 4 carnival is on from Sunday until July 5 at the Briggs Road Sporting Complex.
The carnival began in 1963 when each of the districts revolved around big country towns like Charleville, Roma, Jandowae, Pittsworth, Ipswich and Gold Coast.
Last year the carnival reached its 50th birthday in Toowoomba.
Players such as Allan Langer, Willie Carne, the Walters brothers, Pat O'Doherty and Darren Lockyer have participated in the Zone 4 Carnival as 11-year-olds.
"The Ipswich Parents and Old Boys have been staunch supporters of the carnival since their inception and without their support financially and in the form of guidance, this event would be much harder to organise," official Bevan Baker said.
One Ipswich player going into the carnival with an inkling of what to expect is Norths Tiger Jack Martin.
Jack's dad Greg, a West End junior, played for Ipswich in the Zone 4 carnival in 1986. Greg was selected in the Queensland under-12 team that year.
"I wasn't aware it was still going so when Jack became eligible I thought it was great," Greg said.
While the playing experience for many will be similar to what those 11-year-olds have had over half a century, Jack's adventure will differ greatly from his father's.
"The bus ride was always fun," Greg said. "We had ours at Chinchilla and we shared our bus with the Gold Coast team, who we met in the grand final."
That made for an interesting return trip.
For those travelling a distance to the carnival, it is a cultural as much as a football experience.
Unfortunately some of that has been lost with players no longer being billeted out by host families.
"You meet a lot of new kids," Greg said. "You had to adjust living under another person's roof."
When he went to Chinchilla Greg got invited to something he'll never forget - shooting kangaroos.
While Jack won't be shooting any roos next week, his dad hopes he gets some of the same reward from the week-long tournament.
"I just hope he has fun and a good experience," Greg said.
"He'll remember faces and hopefully he goes in the under 15s, schoolboys and after that where he'll see them again.
"I think they'll go all right.
"They've got to listen to their coach and not get too excited about the size or skill of other teams."