FOR the past several years, there has been a movement growing in Gunnedah.
It has been led by the Gunnedah Touch Association and it has prompted local participation numbers in the sport to grow year on year.
Now, the culmination of the association's hard work will be on display, as five of its members will line up for the Northern Eagles at next month's National Touch League in Coffs Harbour.
Cath Turner, Dean Whitton, Mathew Brady, Paul Brady and Beck Dowe will take on the country's best players at the four-day tournament.
Long-time Gunnedah touch player Paul Brady said the number of Gunnedah players selected in the various squads was testament to the game's popularity in the region.
"I think it's really pleasing to see how many people have started playing in the past couple of years," Brady told the Leader.
"We have had players represent the Eagles before, but this year's group is the most amount of players we've had going at the same time.
"It's really pleasing to have so many people eager to play and I think it's a clear indication the sport's growing in Gunnedah."
The group's Northern Eagles selection comes after Gunnedah sent three teams to the annual State Cup, which was one of the association's strongest showings in recent years.
"We did really well at the State Cup and the amount of players we've sent down has grown over the past few years, which is great," Brady said.
"I'm sure we can hopefully build on that in the coming years and encourage more people to get involved.
"I think the most pleasing thing about the association's growth has been the amount of people getting involved in the rep stuff.
"In the past, we haven't had so many people keen to get involved. But for that to turnaround like it has is really good to see."
The tournament will mark Brady's fifth time representing the Eagles, while for Dowe, Mathew Brady and Turner, the March 11-14 tournament will mark their debut for the representative squads.
"I'm really excited to get into it," Dowe said.
"I think if more people knew how enjoyable the whole trial process was they would have put their hands up as well.
"Hopefully, we can have a really enjoyable experience, pass that on to everyone when we get back and get more people involved next year."
The Eagles are currently preparing for the tournament by hosting regular training sessions in Macksville.
"It is a bit hard to get over for training, but I'm sure we will be able to work it out," Brady said.
"We have been doing a bit here with our weekly competition, so hopefully that will hold us in good stead.
"Either way, we will be keen to show that a lot of good players come from the country and not just the city or the coast."