500 players coming for Cairns Oztag Cup
TWELVE years after planning started, Geoff Byfield has finally achieved his dream of bringing a national Oztag carnival to Cairns.
More than 20 teams from across Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands are expected to compete in the Top End Cup at Barlow Park during the Queen’s Birthday weekend.
Byfield said at least 11 regions in New South Wales would be represented as well as teams from Brisbane, the Sunshine Coast and other Queensland regions.
"The feedback we’ve recieved so far has been huge," Byfield said.
"It’s only the first year, so we weren’t expecting too much of a response but it’s generated a lot of interest all across Australia."
Originally the competition only included Australian teams, but Byfield said he had a surprising amount of interest from teams in New Zealand.
Now he’s looking for more local teams to apply.
He expects more than 500 competitors from under-16, open, under-20, over-30 and over-35 categories to take part in the carnival.
It will mark the first time a carnival of its type has been played outside South-East Queensland, according to Byfield.
"We’re hoping it will become an annual thing with teams from all over Australia and we’re even thinking of expanding it to teams in New Zealand."
Byfield said the sport was growing in popularity in Australia and New Zealand.
Across Australia there are more than 80 Oztag divisions and there is a growing player base in New Zealand.
"A lot of sports use it because it is excellent for your hand-eye co-ordination and obviously it follows the same concepts as sports like rugby league," Byfield said.
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Looking good: Boche Satrick (left) and Chris Lei get in some practice for the national Oztag carnival in Cairns. Picture: MIKE WATT