More than 700 ready for the season opener

By Lee Gaskin

WITH football, or soccer as Tiarnie Gilbert calls it, done for another year, she could not wait until the much-anticipated junior touch season kicked-off.

Gilbert will be one of more than 700 youngsters who will take to the field when the Bundaberg Junior Touch Association (BJTA) begins its new season tonight.

Easily the most-popular junior sport in the city, a total of 68 teams have nominated in age groups ranging from under-8s to under-16s.

One player eager to get her first touch of the footy is Gilbert, who was a willing player last season.

She will take to the park in the 13-14 years division, and said touch provided good off-season training to prepare for her main winter discipline of football (soccer).

"(Playing touch) is a good way to keep fit, and it's fun," Gilbert said.

While winning is always nice, the aim of any junior sport is purely for enjoyment and for the love of the game. It is a sentiment that Gilbert agreed with.

"Touch is more fun and less competitive," she said.

"Instead of doing nothing, it's a fun way to come out and have something to do."

Another who is set to feature in the competition is Michael Formosa, who earlier this year was selected as a shadow for the state primary schools touch team.

With new players coming through the ranks, there is also the batch of talented older players who are now in the senior ranks.

However, BJTA president Neil Afflick said it was pleasing to see a majority stay involved in a non-playing capacity.

"Some of the stars from last season, like Justin Otto and Brit Duncan, have become ineligible because of age restrictions, but it's good to see them in other roles," Afflick said.

"A large number of these older players have stayed involved as coaches and referees, which assists the ongoing development of the game."

The season will consist of a 17-week competition, which will break after nine weeks for the Christmas period.

Play will then resume on the February 2, with the grand finals in all divisions to be held on March 23.

Apart from being a great outlet for juniors on the field, Afflick said the fixtures had become the perfect place to catch-up for parents.

"Parents also have much to gain, with the night now the highlight social event of the week," he said.

"Parents get together with their families and create a very special night out."

The club is still looking for people to assist with referee or canteen duties.

If people are able to help, telephone 4152 8365.

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