The Armidale Express reports that this year there will be over 900 players from 45 school and club teams grouped into five divisions based on teams of similar ability. Over the two days, 110 games of rugby will be played on eight school ovals, proudly prepared by TAS grounds staff over recent weeks.
While carnival attracts teams from a very wide area including the metros, it especially important for country teams such as the Moree Junior Bulls who have participated in every carnival since its inception.
According to Moree Junior Bulls coordinator Cath Keen, the team loves heading to Armidale to take part in the massive competition.
“It is competition from bigger regional centres, they’re playing against kids from all over New South Wales and parts of Queensland,” she said. “It’s more competition and it’s great for them to see how other kids play and what the standards are.”There has been a lot of media coverage about the problems that smaller communities have faced in maintaining sporting competition in all codes because of diminishing numbers of young people. There has been less coverage of the problems that good country athletes face at both school and club level in accessing good coaching and proper competition.
At school level, the problem is compounded by the growing gap in pupil numbers between country and city schools. It is very hard, for example, in rugby union to compete against a city school which may have 2,000 boys if you only have 300 or even 600. The problem is further compounded by the growing professionalisation in school sport. Mind you, its not just a problem for country schools. The smaller city schools struggle as well, as evidenced by the problems over recent years in the NSW GPS (Greater Public Schools) rugby competition. .
I think TAS deserves commendation for the way that has been prepared to make its grounds and staff available to support not just regional sporting activities, but also academic and cultural activities. .