State’s best to descend on Valley

GIPPSLAND’S finest junior soccer players will join hundreds of their statewide counterparts in a quest for dominance during this weekend’s Country Leagues Football Association Boys Country Championships in Traralgon.

Gippsland will host the championships, for the first time in five years, from Saturday through to Monday and 340 talented juniors are expected to converge at Harold Preston Park, home of clubs Traralgon City and Olympians.

Gippsland Soccer League football manager Paul Crowe told The Express the championships event, now in its 32nd year, would see a high level of competition between the eight Gippsland teams being fielded and representative squads from Warrnambool, Ballarat, Shepparton, Bendigo and Albury-Wodonga, the latter two regions tipped to prove particularly strong.

Crowe said teams from under 11s through to under 16s would contend for the championship titles in their respective age groups, though this year some age groups would be combined.

Gippsland’s juniors had a strong showing at the Football Federation Victoria Regional Challenge Cup in Shepparton earlier this month, with the under 13s winning their age group and under 12s and 14s both finishing in the top four.

However, Crowe said the under 13s would be in a combined age group for the upcoming Traralgon tournament and would face tough competition.

Gippsland’s three under 11 sides set to compete, including one specifically from South Gippsland, were selected from 150 players who trialled for the opportunity and will play on a full-sized pitch, which Crowe said would provide them with a “bit of an introduction ahead of next year”.

Some of the Gippsland squads had been training together since March.

A schedule of all games will be made available on the GSL website under fixtures for Country Championships ahead of the weekend.

GSL board member Peter Boyse said the weekend would kick-off at 8.30am on Saturday and finals would be wrapped up by about 3pm Monday.

He said the tournament would stimulate the sort of positive economic activity seen during Gippsland Knights’ gala weekends.

For more information about the country championships,