SCULLY Park has been invaded by up to 200 schoolboy rugby league players – but Tamworth has kicked goals all over the city with a big boost in tourist dollars.
While the teenagers are testing their skills as part of the Australian Secondary Schools Rugby League 15-year-old national championships, another 250 parents, support team members and recruitment officers have been in the wings.
Tamworth prides itself on hosting large sporting events and festivals, Destination Tamworth economic and destination development manager Craig Dunstan said.
“When large groups come through and choose Tamworth as a destination, it’s a real feather in our cap,” Mr Dunstan said.
It is believed to be the first time ever Tamworth has hosted a national secondary schoolboys championships and onlookers say it is a fitting honour.
Australian Secondary Schools Rugby League president Grant Edwards said Tamworth had a long history of success in schoolboy competitions, particularly with the Farrer and early Tamworth High teams.
The coach of the first ever Australian schoolboys team, Roy Masters, was actually a teacher at Tamworth High when he was first appointed in the mid-’70s.
But fast forward to today and although some of the young players have been housed at schools such as Farrer, a number of families, referees, supervisors and recruitment officers from the NRL are staying at local motels.
With many accommodation sites flashing “no vacancy” signs along Goonoo Goonoo Rd, it is a good sign for local eateries and service providers.
Mr Dunstan said it was not only the accommodation outlets that thrived, but also restaurants and petrol stations.
“Visitors experience the sights and sounds of Tamworth. They go out and eat and dine and spend time together as a family,” he said.
Mr Edwards said the adjoining West Tamworth League Club likely enjoyed the extra business and said their “profits get boosted considerably” by the purchases of spectators.
He said the league crew would also spend money on food, drinks and taxis when in town.
Players and their families have flocked to Tamworth from every state and territory.
Proud dad and Queenslander Steven Smoothy said the seven-hour drive from the Gold Coast was worth it to see his son on the field.
“I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else,” Mr Smoothy said.
The out-of-towners were treated to a little local flavour when former Farrer student Tom Learoyd-Lahrs answered questions at the schoolboys’ championship dinner on Monday night.