Record touch football numbers heading to Nelson Bay for Peter Wilson Memorial Championship

GEARED UP: Nelson Bay touch president Nev Gear with players Will Doherty, 9, Alice Mitchell, 11, Abby Orton, 12, Sam Orton, 14, Hugh Doherty, 14, Sam Mitchell, 14, Maddi Mitchell, 16 and Emily Freeman, 16.
GEARED UP: Nelson Bay touch president Nev Gear with players Will Doherty, 9, Alice Mitchell, 11, Abby Orton, 12, Sam Orton, 14, Hugh Doherty, 14, Sam Mitchell, 14, Maddi Mitchell, 16 and Emily Freeman, 16.

A record 156 teams, in excess of 2500 players, a staggering 180 referees, the use of 15 fields and the largest number of coaches, trainers, selectors and visitors to descend onto Port Stephens in one weekend.

That’s the enormity of the annual Peter Wilson Memorial Championship, which will be hosted by Nelson Bay Touch Association on February 2 and 3.

Association president Nev Gear said the tournament, in its 12th year, keeps growing in patronage and popularity, making it the biggest sporting event on the Port Stephens calendar.

“This is a fantastic event for touch in the Hunter region and a tremendous boost for the Port Stephens economy, with many of the thousands of visitors staying for the full weekend,” he said.

“That means more business for accommodation places, restaurants and cafes, tourist operators … the list goes on.”

To cater for the growing numbers, the tournament this year will be played on Don Waring and Dick Burwell ovals plus the No. 1 Sportsground in addition to the Tomaree touch fields – its regular home since 2007.

This year’s championship will cater for teams from under-8 to 18s, with participants coming from as far afield as Macksville in the north, Orange and Dubbo in the west and Central Coast in the south.

Nelson Bay Neptunes will field 10 teams – five each in the boys and girls divisions.

Gear said the the Neptunes are expected to figure prominently in the championships, with the finals to be conducted from noon on Sunday, February 3.

“We will also have around 30 selectors on watch so this is a great opportunity for juniors to gain future representative honours. All players will be on show and under the microscope,” Gear said.

“In the past this tournament has attracted huge crowd support from locals on both days and we are expecting those numbers to increase with the growth in participation. The deciders on Sunday afternoon will be particularly exciting.”

Gear said that junior touch had blossomed in recent years due to the sport’s clean image as well as the health and skills benefits.

“It’s cheap, it’s local so parents don’t have to worry about travelling out of town, it’s quick [45 minutes a game] and players learn skills which can be transferred to other codes such as league, union, AFL and netball.”

He said that volunteers would play a major part in ensuring the tournament’s success.

“The club will be manning the barbecue, drinks and refreshments stalls so we be looking for all hands on deck. We receive great support from the council and Rotary but ultimately we need as many adults as possible to get us through two hectic days and ensure that everyone has an enjoyable experience.”

Games will be played between 8am and 5pm on each of the two days.

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