Matt brings star power Bowen to suit up for All Blacks

Townsville Bulletin - - SPORT - MICHAEL THOMP­SON michael. thomp­son@ news. com. au

RE­TIRED Cow­boys leg­end Matt Bowen will strap on the boots once again when the Bin­dal Sharks All Blacks Rugby League car­ni­val kicks off this week­end.

A to­tal of 16 open men’s teams from Bowen to the Tor­res Strait will take part in the two- day com­pe­ti­tion at the Townsville Sports Re­serve, which will also fea­ture for­mer Cow­boys and West Tigers play­maker Robert Lui.

Bowen will play for Gulf Bulls, a team made up of indige­nous play­ers from the Gulf of Car­pen­taria area in­clud­ing Doomadgee, Morn­ing­ton Is­land and Nor­man­ton. Lui will line up for Townsville- based side Eastern Star War­riors.

Known for fea­tur­ing indige­nous NRL stars in­clud­ing Ben Barba, Nene MacDon­ald and Chris Sandow, the All Blacks car­ni­val has long been known for throw­ing up surprise in­clu­sions, with or­gan­is­ers en­cour­ag­ing spec­ta­tors to keep an eye out for more big names this week­end.

“We’ve capped it to two NRL play­ers for each team, so it’s go­ing to be a good mix of ex­pe­ri­enced play­ers and young ta­lent,” car­ni­val or­gan­iser Jenny Pryor said.

“That way we can give all our play­ers an op­por­tu­nity, and that’s what this car­ni­val is all about.

“It al­lows our play­ers to show their skills in front of their own mob and also the wider com­mu­nity.”

The car­ni­val will also fea­ture a strong pres­ence of Palm Is­land teams, with the com­mu­nity field­ing open sides Bar­racu­das Green, Bar­racu­das Gold, Bwg­col­man Broth­ers and Aja Boys.

Two- time cham­pi­ons de­fend­ing Coastal Balaz, from Townsville, will again be among the favourites.

Pryor says the in­clu­sion of teams such as Gulf Bulls made it harder to pick a win­ner.

“There’s a hand­ful of new teams and from what I’ve seen of their team lists, you can’t really as­sume that any one team is go­ing to win,” she said. “I think that’s good for the event and I really hope ev­ery­one can come along and en­joy some deadly foot­ball.”

The com­pe­ti­tion will also fea­ture a four- team un­der- 18s com­pe­ti­tion, along with Un­der- 11 and Un­der- 13 ex­hi­bi­tion matches.

A women’s ex­hi­bi­tion match be­tween Bowen Singers and Aja Women will be played be­fore the men’s open grand fi­nal to­mor­row af­ter­noon.

“It’s an al­co­hol and drugfree event, and the fam­ily at­mos­phere is sec­ond to none,” Pryor said.

“Our el­ders in par­tic­u­lar en­joy com­ing along, some­times they’re here from the first game and they love it be­cause it’s a really re­laxed envi- ron­ment. Ev­ery­one from the wider com­mu­nity is wel­come to come down as well – they’re more than wel­come.”

The an­nual All Blacks car­ni­val starts to­day at 10am with an open­ing cer­e­mony.

It re­sumes to­mor­row, with the men’s open de­cider which will be played from about 3pm.

READY TO GO: Hayden and Ash­ley Salt­ner, Mar­shall Yasso, AJ Willis, Jor­don Rem­frey, Theo Willis, Luke Murr and Cody Snow ( at rear); Zac Ab­dul- Rah­man, 11, Donna Ross and Tre­maine Pryor- Mur­ray, 9, ( mid­dle) and Pablo Pryor- Mur­ray, 3, ( front), are ready

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