16 February 2023

Heatwave plans in place ahead of Junior State Cup touch footy carnival

| Chris Roe
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Junior State Touch Cup

Organisers are bracing for hot weather as thousands head to town for the touch footy carnival. Photo: Chris Roe.

The fields at Wagga’s Jubilee Park are mowed, the marquees are up and the hot weather plan is in place on the eve of the Junior State Cup carnival.

The touch footy event is one of the biggest on the region’s sporting calendar with more than 8000 visitors pouring into the city for the three-day southern conference event that will feature 189 teams.

NSW Touch Association General Manager Dean Russell says they are excited to be back in Wagga for a fifth year and preparations for the predicted heatwave have been top of mind.

“We do have obvious concerns with the particular weather forecasts, but we have taken some precautions already,” he said, explaining format changes aimed at beating the heat.

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“Instead of playing the 30-minute turnaround touch, we’ll be playing all the round games across all three days in two 11-and-a-half-minute halves with a two-minute break just to ease some of the pressures on both the participants and the referees.”

A decision on the format of the finals will be made over the weekend and Mr Russell said that they also had the option to play after sundown if things got too hot during the day.

“That’s one of the benefits of being in a venue like Wagga. We do have those lighting capabilities as a backup plan should we get those extreme heat dangers.”

Jubilee Park

Crews have been preparing the fields, marking the lines and putting up marquees ahead of the weekend’s touch footy. Photo: Chris Roe.

Examples of accommodation price gouging have also cast a shadow over preparations for the event and Mr Russell said it could impact the viability of future events.

“There are some that are taking the mickey and it does put events like this at risk,” he said, conceding that past experiences of price gouging in the Riverina had been a factor in Wagga missing out on hosting the senior state cup.

“To be honest, it was one of the elements,” he said.

“The price gouging wasn’t the only reason that we ended up determining to go back to Port Macquarie, but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a factor that we have to consider.”

Wagga Mayor Dallas Tout said the response from some accommodation providers was disappointing and shortsighted.

“Over these three days, there’s somewhere around $5.5 million worth of economic impact to the city and the region,” he said.

“Those sorts of actions can put at risk, multi-million dollars’ worth of events, the premium events that are coming now like this one.”

He confirmed that Wagga City Council had followed up on complaints in previous years, but had few options beyond the goodwill of the operators and potentially referring the matter to the Department of Fair Trading.

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It’s the first time the event has been held since COVID-19 restrictions were lifted and Wagga Mayor Dallas Tout said lessons learned during the pandemic would benefit the city.

“They have a morning session or an afternoon session so you actually have time as a family or a group to go out,” he said.

“The format is set up that way to allow people not just play their touch and enjoy their touch, but also you have the opportunity to go and do other things and enjoy our city.”

Cr Tout warned locals to be aware of changed traffic conditions with hundreds of extra vehicles converging on the Jubilee Park precinct and parts of Red Hill Road and Bourke Street to be closed.

“We’ve just asked people in the city if they’re not coming to the touch to be aware of it, and plan any trip around it,” he said.


Wagga City Council has warned locals to be aware of weekend road closures. Graphic: WWCC.

Games begin at 8 am Friday with the finals kicking off from 12:30 pm on Sunday and Cr Tout hopes the community will put any controversy aside to celebrate a fabulous event.

“The accommodation, yes, it’s an issue, we’ll deal with it,” he said.

“But the rest, it’s an amazing weekend. It’s an amazing carnival, an amazing event, so please let’s everyone enjoy it!”

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