Launceston Tournament attracts 86 teams to Churchill Park

United stand: Riverside Olympic's Jake Weeding takes on Ulverstone at Launceston United's Birch Avenue in the 2016 Launceston Tournament.
United stand: Riverside Olympic's Jake Weeding takes on Ulverstone at Launceston United's Birch Avenue in the 2016 Launceston Tournament.

Just like a roofed Steven Gerrard penalty, the Launceston Tournament is simultaneously hitting the mark and still rising.

This year’s competition attracted 86 teams – 21 more than the event’s previous record of 65 – and will feature more than 180 matches as Churchill Park braces for a packed weekend of football.

Northern giants Launceston United will both contribute to and help solve the tournament’s welcome numbers problem by entering six teams and hosting matches at Birch Avenue. 

The club’s junior vice president Rhys Morris said the fact Churchill Park could no longer cater for all the games showed how the far the competition had come.

“The tournament itself has gone gangbusters,” he said.

“Only a few years ago they only had 30 or 40 teams so it’s doubled in size.

“It’s now across three venues around town because it used to be held at Churchill but they’ve had to spread it because it’s too big for the venue.”

United has established itself as one of the state’s biggest sporting clubs in recent times and has 455 juniors and 120 senior players on its books this year.

This weekend’s tournament will see some of the club’s brightest prospects between the ages of nine and 16 test their mettle against intrastate and interstate counterparts.

“It’s a different type of competition because you’re getting clubs from other areas of the state, and it just gives them different kids to play against as opposed to week-in, week-out playing the same kids from Launceston,” Morris said.

“This way we’re testing ourselves because the South are generally stronger... they’ve got academies and they’ve got their own youth programs so I guess we can get a benchmark against where we’re at.”

About 1100 juniors are expected to strap on the shinpads at Churchill Park this weekend, with 34 Launceston-based teams registered.

The remainder will come from the North-West, the South and the mainland. 

Morris said the tournament was a perfect illustration of the sheer number of boot studs churning up Churchill Park on a regular basis and the consequent need for further investment at the complex.

“We’re trying to invest in the sport and we’re getting some numbers into the city so some more investment from local council and state government would go well.

“We’ve got 1800 kids that run around Churchill Park every weekend so I think our grounds are the most-used sporting grounds... although there is some development coming forward we need some resurfacing.”

LAUNCESTON TOURNAMENT

  • WHAT: Launceston Mitsubishi Tournament, Tasmania’s largest youth soccer tournament for boys, girls and mixed teams from under-nines to under-16s
  • WHERE: Churchill Park, Birch Avenue, Launceston
  • WHEN: Friday, September 22, to Sunday, September 24
  • DETAILS: https://ntjsa.org.au/tournament