In just over a year, some 3000 touch players and officials, from up to 200 junior teams, will converge on Jubilee Park, after Wagga was granted the rights to the inaugural Junior State Cup – Southern Conference.
Wagga Council, in conjunction with the Wagga Touch Association, successfully tendered for the first three years of the event, after NSW Touch decided to split it’s popular Junior State Cup into southern and northern conferences.
NSW Touch general manager, Dean Russell, praised Wagga’s suitability for the 2019 to 2021 tournaments.
“It’s one of the sporting capitals of the south of the state,” Russell said.
“The Junior State Cup has been a magnificent event for us, but it has grown exponentially, to a fact that we’re at breaking point… and so we needed to go to a northern and southern conference.
“From that point of view, we looked at the facilities, we looked at the accommodation structures and we looked at the centralised location of being in this part of the state.
“(Wagga) has always been heartland touch in the country areas. It has one of the biggest junior competitions outside the Sydney metropolitan area, so it’s a really important facet of our community.
“That’s one of the key reasons why we decided this was the venue for us to come to.”
In addition to players and officials, NSW Touch anticipates the event will bring another 8500 spectators to Wagga, providing a forecast economic impact of up to $3 million.
The sport enjoyed growth – at junior level – of six percent across the state last year.
Around 150 teams from the southern half of the state are off to Port Macquarie this week for the Junior State Cup.
Russell anticipates that another 30 to 50 teams will nominate for next year’s southern conference (to be held on 22-24 January, 2019) given the reduced travel.
Touch officials say it will open representative pathways to more regional players. An under eights division will be introduced for the first time and NSW Touch will also allow associations to enter secondary, or development teams, in age divisions.
“That’ll help the growth within our local competition and the competitions around, like Coolamon, Young, Griffith, who haven’t traditionally travelled (to Port Macquarie),” Wagga Touch Association president Chris Dolahenty said.
Dolahenty said the opportunity to play at home, or close to home, will benefit local players while showcasing some of the best talent in the state will also be a boost to the sport’s profile in Wagga.
The top eight teams in the southern and northern conferences (from under 10s up) will progress to a state final.
The conferences are only coming in for the junior state cup, with NSW Touch sticking with the one statewide event at senior level.