The next Benji's await lucky 14
TOUCH FOOTBALL: Ten years ago, Rockhampton Touch Association would snap your hand off to have one player represent their Australia.
Come January, the club will have 14 going head to head with New Zealand in a best of three series.
Selected in the Australian under-17s and u19s boys, girls and mixed teams, the 14 players will travel to Auckland next year with hopes of continuing their recent success in the Youth divisions, after having won the past four Youth Trans Tasman events.
Rockhampton Touch Association president Gary Benbow couldn't be happier with the milestone.
"Ten years ago if we secured a spot in a state team, we would be doing cartwheels,” Benbow said.
"This, along with a host of other championship success and rep recognition throughout all of our age groups, highlights that our development programs are working. When you do the sums out of the 84 Australian players going, one in six will be from Rocky.
"This feat is unmatched and unheard of by any other city of region.”
Speaking on behalf of his team mates, Jack Hughes said it was in no doubt that himself and the other 13 were as a result of the high level coaching in Rockhampton.
"The fact we have 14 players selected to play in this Trans-Tasman series is a testament to the quality of our coaches, managers and support staff who devote an immense number of hours to the development,” Hughes said.
"Most of us started under the direction of Rod Pratt at under-12s, then progressed through a series of other first class coaches including Gavin Shuker, Gary Benbow, Mark Western and Jayden Benbow, to name a few.
"When you consider that these people are all volunteers, and willing to spend so much time on their fields, you really appreciate that our sport is in great hands.”
Baillie List u17s boys
Blake Moore u17s boys
Malcolm Kenny u19s boys
Jacob Marrinan u19s boys
Damon Moore u19s boys
Aaron Moore u17s mixed
Lachlan Crow u17s mixed
Liam Grant u17s mixed
Jacob van Zanden u17s mixed
Harrison Griffin u19s mixed
Connor Harvey u19s mixed
Jack Hughes u19s mixed
Luke O'Brien u19s mixed
Tamika Upton u19s girls
Rockhampton Touch coach Tracey Upton said challenging the Kiwis was both a test and an honour.
"Any opportunity to play the Kiwis is an honour and I know all our players are very keen,” she said.
"It is a different style which they will have to adjust to. They are jam packed full of Shaun Johnsons and Benji Marshalls type players. The fast stepping and freak plays.
"So the Kiwis will be very good. And they want to beat us, you bet your bottom dollar. They love nothing more than beating us, but its not going to happen.”
Asked if touch football was Rockhampton's best sport for producing representative players Upton paused.
"I think it's one of the best definitely,” she said.
"We are very lucky to have some really key coaches, Mitchell Smith, Phil Gyemore and Gary Benbow. They are a huge help.
"But with most of these kids who were picked, they all coach themselves. That's the beauty about them.
"They want to give back and put in. They are all coaching our CQ juniors to bring the next brigade through.
"That and going away to carnivals and just producing the goods consistently is what gets so many of our players picked.”