Country Challenge increases rugby league participation

Katherine’s U15 rugby league players overcame unbearable heat to win two of their five games in the inaugural Country Challenge last weekend. 

Making it to fourth on the leader board, the Katherine team was defeated by the Northern Sharks, South Darwin and the Alice Spring’s team. 

Running over one day, the Country Challenge scratched the rule book to play quick modified games. 

Teams from Darwin, Alice Springs and Gove made the trip to Katherine to play for the Terry Hohns Cup. 

Katherine Rugby League vice president Brett Payne said the teams performed well despite the intense build-up heat. 

“We had a couple of very minor injuries and one concussion, but it was the heat that really wore the boys out,” Mr Payne said. 

With the first game kicking off at 10.45am on Saturday at the Katherine Sport Grounds, the seven teams competed in a round robin competition of 20 minute games to make it to the grand final. 

With the success of the first Country Challenge, Mr Payne said next year’s competition will comprise of more days.

“Across the NT this competition has helped increase participation rates,” Mr Payne said. 

“The whole idea was to work on not losing players at this difficult age group – U15s is an age where numbers really dwindle. 

“We have managed to get a heap of players interested in the game again… we are fully expecting to see bigger teams next season,” he said. 

Mr Payne said the Country Challenge competition ignited new interest in the game. 

“In these smaller regional towns the teams get sick of playing the same players each game. 

“But as soon as you bring in more variety, like we did with this competition, we have kids putting their hand up left and right,” he said. 

Next year’s Country Challenge is expected to be bigger than ever with the inclusion of U15 girl’s teams. 

“Female participation in sport is being pushed in rugby league, so getting the girls involved next year will really top it off,” Mr Payne said. 

The Country Challenge is expected to run over more days next year to allow for training sessions. 

Pre-season training is to commence next week for people wanting to get involved in the sport.

For more information head to the Katherine Junior Rugby League Facebook page. 

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