THE fields are being mown, the draw is almost done and there’s not a spare bed in town as The Armidale School gears up to host the largest primary-aged rugby carnival in Australia in just under two weeks’ time.
Four brand new teams will make their debut at the 13th TAS Rugby Carnival, Queensland teams Caboolture Snakes and Maroochydore Swans and St Andrews from the Sunshine Coast, and local team Highland Goats.
They will be amongst more than 900 players from 45 school and club teams as well as hundreds of supporters who will travel from as far as Dalby and the NSW Southern Tablelands to experience some of the best in schoolboy rugby.
From 16 teams at the inaugural carnival in 2005, the carnival has grown to include city teams including well-known Sydney and Brisbane school and club rugby nurseries and junior clubs including Moree, Inverell and Tamworth from the New England North West region.
Over the two days, 110 games of rugby will be played on eight school ovals, that have been proudly prepared by TAS grounds staff over recent weeks.
There are five divisions, based on teams of similar ability.
A highlight of each carnival is the Spirit of Rugby relay, a foot race comprising four players from every team running the length of the school’s Backfield.
In past years the event has attracted many former rugby greats including, as special guests, former Wallaby captain Nick Farr-Jones, Wallaby Paddy Ryan, and former Australian assistant coach and current Scotland coach Scott Johnson. Former Wallabies Phil Kearns, John Eales and Rod Kafer have also attended as parents while Australian Rugby Union CEO Mr Bill Pulver was the special guest in 2014.
The event won the 2012 Armidale Dumaresq Council Australia Day award for contribution to sports and recreation in acknowledgement of the estimated $3million the event turns over in the Armidale economy every year.
The biggest TAS event of the year relies on the enormous support of the school community to cater for the crowd.
“The carnival has consolidated itself as an important sporting fixture because of the opportunity it provides for club and school teams to come together in a friendly atmosphere,” said event convenor Will Caldwell.
“For many it is the first time on tour and that will be an experience they will remember for a lifetime.
“More than that though it is also a wonderful experience for the many members of the TAS community who are involved which goes beyond a passion for rugby.”
The players are staying at a number of schools.
The TAS Rugby Carnival is on April 8 and 9.