League carnival gets facelift
THE NEW year is just around the corner and already the first major competition for one of the winter codes is set to get underway.
The 2012 Indigenous Reconciliation Carnival will take place next month with a new organiser, a change of venue, a slightly different format but still with big money prizes for winners.
Justin Loomans takes over the organisation role from Walson Carlos and he is very happy at the way the 2012 event is coming together.
"It is all looking fantastic," he said.
Last year numbers were cut back as some teams were forced to withdraw due to the floods that affected communities around Queensland.
"We had planned for 32 teams this year but it looks as if there will be about 26 (eight more than 2011)," he said.
This year's event will be held at CQUniversity which means organisers are able to use two fields, side-by-side.
The 2011 carnival was staged at Browne Park with provision made, had all teams made the trip, for a second pitch away from the main venue.
"The CQUniversity pitches are close to the CQ Indigenous Development offices (major sponsor and Loomans' employer)," he said.
"We are looking to the future.
"There is a lot more area so we can put stalls up there."
Again the prizemoney will prove to be attractive to teams with $30,000 for the winner of the carnival and $10,000 for the runner-up.
There are three divisions in the men's competition, each receiving generous prizemoney for making the grand final.
"There is also a women's division," Loomans said.
"We are expecting six teams."
There are some very good teams set to compete including the Cherbourg Hornets.
The Hornets won the carnival in 2009 and 2010 but missed last year's event.
Last year's winner, Curacoa Crusaders, will not take part this year but Loomans said a team to watch will be Martia's Mob which will include members of the well-known rugby league family - the Whites, and bolstered by NRL legend Rhys Wesser who is also an ambassador for the carnival along with Dave Peachey who has become a regular fixture at these carnivals.
The Indigenous Reconciliation Carnival will be held January 27-29.
Loomans recently returned from Papua New Guinea where he played in a State of Origin showpiece.
Unfortunately New South Wales won the match, held as a part of a promotion for PNG's bid to join the NRL, by two points.
"New South Wales had a great backline," Loomans said.
Among the star-studded backs were Cliff Lyons and Nathan Blacklock but it was former Eastern Suburbs and Manly player Ron Gibbs that Loomans remembers best from the game.
"I ducked under his wing and stole the ball," he said,
"I then ran 30-40 metres to score a try."