Young guns are cocked and ready to fire in Coffs
Oztag: After the unprecedented success of last year's event, NSW Oztag have had to pull on the reins in 2019 to ensure Coffs Harbour doesn't come to a complete standstill once again this weekend.
Last year more than 315 teams and 12,000 people flooded the town for the Junior State Championships, resulting in nearly every room being booked between Red Rock and Macksville and causing gridlock on the roads leading to C.ex Coffs International Stadium.
This year the tournament has been split into two, with the U9s-U11s to be held in Sydney in late February while Coffs will host the U12s-U17s.
The cutback means a more manageable 213 teams will be in town.
"It's going to be a lot easier to handle,” Tournament director Bill Harrigan said.
"Even though we've split the tournament this year between Sydney and Coffs, all up we have an increased number of teams again.”
Harrigan has been around all forms of football for a long time, but is still blown away by the quality of the juniors.
"It always astounds me at such a young age how skilful the players are, they leave me shaking my head,” he said.
"What they can do in a game really is great.”
Harrigan added because of the growth of the game, children as young as four want to get involved, which may be why by the time they're 13 they look like a young Benji Marshall or Shaun Johnson.
"We hold skills clinics for kids aged 4-6 so they can come and learn how to play the ball and pass. It's great to see their development over a 10-week period.”
Harrigan admitted he's had one eye on the forecast after some bad luck with washouts in Coffs Harbour before.
"It looks like it will be in the 20s which is good for the players. A little bit of rain won't hurt us, it's the big downpours which we worry about.”
The boys U12s division is tipped to be hotly contested, with an incredible 23 teams competing. The tournament commences at 10am Friday with finals scheduled to be finished by 3pm Sunday.