Gunnedah’s touch football community is brimming with talent with several players starring at the State of Origin showdown recently.
Gunnedah player Matt Whitney, who hails from Lithgow, debuted for the NSW men’s 35 years division at the inter-state carnival played in Coffs Harbour.
Whitney was a standout in the contest, scoring about nine tries in his team’s three-nil drubbing of Queensland.
Paul Brady, who represented NSW last year, lost his men’s 40 years division 3-0 to a strong Queensland outfit.
The consolation was that NSW won the overall State of Origin shield honours for the ninth consecutive year.
Next year the touch representatives will look to swap the state jerseys for Australian colours as players vie for national selection in the trans-Tasman tournament.
Gunnedah’s junior players are also running in big representative accolades.
Local juniors Cley Durrant and Flyn Harrison have earned selection in the Northern NSW Eagles squad.
The boys are making the almost five-hour drive to Macksville on a regular basis for weekend training.
It is all in preparation for their representation at the National Youth Championships on the Sunshine Coast later this year.
Gunnedah Touch Association vice president Simone Brady said it is an exciting time for the sport and local representative honours.
“With the popularity touch has in town and the way the junior pathways are becoming stronger, we’re having players being consistently selected across a range of age groups,” she said.
“Some of the Gunnedah players, women like Khobi Devine, have played in the open women’s side against the best players in Australia.
“It’s a phenomenal thing to be a country player and still mixing it with the best.”
As Gunnedah committee members plan for the upcoming summer competition season, the local association has been lucky to host several competitions this year.
“A lot of metropolitan associations have not had consecutive seasons because of COVID wet weather and field closure,” Brady said.
“Gunnedah is one of limited associations that has not missed a season through the last couple of years.
“So, we are really fortunate and it’s showing in terms of representative players and also popularity of the sport in town.”