Organisers of Saturday’s Waratahs Knockout have hailed the event the best yet, with an increase in participation and a magnificent standard of football on display.
The tournament was won by the Ualarai Sand Goannas, who prevailed 34-10 over the Billy Merritt Memorial Side in a final full of intensity.
Both sides featured plenty of familiar faces, with the Merritt side featuring Josh, Jai, Zac and Keiran Merritt, as well as Hamish Astill, Ash Widders and Corey Cox.
The Sand Goannas were represented by the likes of multiple Group 11 winning players Keiran Cubby-Shipp and Colby Pellow, with Matt Naden acting as waterboy.
The repecharge final saw the Lewis Coe Memorial Team get over the top of the Castlereagh Hornets.
Competition co-ordinator Seth Toomey said the 2017 Knockout featured eight teams more than previous events, and that was simply due to demand.
“We increased it to 24 teams this year, and that has bought in a big crowd and a really good standard of football,” he said.
“We’ve got them from Broken Hill and Wilcannia, and even across to the coast, so I think that shows just how popular this Knockout has become.
“We initially had 16 teams but the demand came and it was filled in May or June, so we elected to run it as 24 teams as a bit of a test run but it has all panned out really well”.
“We also had a Golden Oldies game featuring Brewarrina and a Dubbo team, so the day was really open to everyone.
“It was good family day with some kids stuff as well, jumping castles, and it was all a non-smoking, non-drinking event.”
The Golden Oldies game featured a number of well-known former faces, including former Souths star Joe Williams and 1991 Rothmans Medallist Ewan McGrady.
The Moree marvel still has some of the skill and guile that was the trademark of his playing days at Canterbury, and according to Toomey his appearance was the big point of the day.
“One of the highlights was Ewan McGrady, who won a Medal and played for Canterbury and he played in the Golden Oldies,” he said.
“Ewan is in his 50s now but he has a love of footy and being at these Knockout events.
“For him to show up and play, and just hang around during the day, is what Knockout Footy is about. It really is something that includes everyone.
“The teams that made the final obviously feature a lot of players that are young and fit, and a lot played in grand finals over the past few weeks, but anyone can play Knockout footy.”
Organisers will now let the dust settle from Saturday’s event before that start the process of planning the 2018 carnival.