For the past 75 years boys have been gathering to test their skills at the Riverina Schoolboys Football Carnival in Junee.
It all started in 1942 when the sportsmaster at Junee Public School, Mr A B Connelly, wanted to organise games against other schools.
Six teams competed in the first year, it grew to 43 teams the next year and has gone from “from strength to strength” since. It has only been postponed once and cancelled once in its history.
Today the event is billed as a marquee event for Junee, and indeed sport in the Riverina with more than 120 teams registered this year.
The carnival has seen thousands of young rugby league players participate over the years and is recognised as the largest carnival of its type.
Initially the marking out and setting up of the fields was done by the locomotive workshop workers who would head down to the fields to help when they had finished their work. Days off were also spent helping with the set up.
In those days all games were played on international-sized fields and miles of telephone cable was run between the fields to get scores through.
The fields were set up on Willow Park (now Laurie Daley Oval), the Junee Showground, Moss’s paddock (now the site of Burns Park) and Loftus Oval.
There seemed to be a particular delight in playing on Moss’s paddock, apart from being on the other side of the road, as the more sedate usual occupants left their calling cards behind.
The challenge was to try to tackle your opponent so that his face landed in a cow pat, and the fresher the better.
There were times, especially during the war years when footy jumpers were hard to come by. Junee teams wore a variety of blue guernseys, even jockey silks if they could borrow some.
Junee Public School mothers were an enterprising group who made the school footy jumpers out of dyed hessian bags.
They were rough, deadly on fingernails if caught in them, and players complained of having a rash for the next week or so from the coarse material and the blue dye ran.
So everyone knew who had played them until the dye wore off.
Footy boots were a luxury for most families so ordinary boots with leather sprigs attached were not uncommon.
Albury High School’s first team was drafted from its Aussie Rules team, and what they lacked in tackling and other Rugby League skills, they certainly made up for in kicking skills.
There are many stories and anecdotes about the carnival including the special train which used to run from Griffith, picking up along the way.
Teams played in weight divisions and weigh-in was first thing in the morning with many boys shivering in the frost and fog because they were wearing the minimum clothing to make the weight.
Seventy-five years of tradition, interesting incidents, personal memories and many anecdotes as well as the odd tall story or two, deserve to be celebrated and commemorated.
There have been many highlights over the years and an incredible amount of work put in by the committee and many volunteers.
One unique aspect of this carnival is that it is, and always has been, run by a “town” committee.
Mr Dudley Locke, who had been transferred from Sydney to Junee with the railway, was a referee and put up his hand to help.
Great support was received from townspeople and the railway workers to set up and run the carnival.
There have been many changes over the years, with the carnival run as a knockout until 1978, when it became a round robin competition.
The most teams entered were 242 in 1969, and the carnival went from weight to age divisions in 1972.
Junior Rugby League Clubs were included in the carnival in 1976, with school teams still eligible to enter. Now teams must be part of a registered Junior Rugby League Club.
The maximum number of teams that can be catered for is around 150 but a full 15 grounds, with unrestricted playing time, are required to be able to accommodate these numbers.
There have been some long associations with the carnival with the third generation of the Willis family still involved in the barbecue, the third generation of the Passlow family are cooking up a storm with hot dogs and many families have the fourth or fifth generation now playing in the carnival.
The Riverina Schoolboys Football Carnival committee appreciates the support of local businesses, and the assistance given on the day by other sporting bodies, community groups and service clubs, who all share in the profits of the carnival.
Many individuals volunteer their time on the day and this is part of what makes it a marquee event for Junee.