Matt brings star power Bowen to suit up for All Blacks
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.