Juniors handle tough weekend

LATE nights and early starts have not discouraged junior basketballers from taking it to the line in the Northern NSW Junior League held in Grafton over the weekend.

Nearly 40 teams ranging from under-18 to under-12 boys and girls from across a region including Kempsey, Tamworth, Inverell and Taree, battled it out in the first round of the state championships at the Grafton Regional Sports and Entertainment Centre.

Centre manager Bruce Leonard said it had been a smorgasbord of entertainment, but one which has taken its toll on players and officials.

“All over it has been a successful weekend ... the under-18s and 16s have been outstanding,” he said.

“Some of the matches have not finished until 10 at night and then the kids have to be back out here at eight in the morning.

“We had to stop one match because a girl slid over the line and hurt her back.

With the two division championships held over four rounds and covering an area of epic geographical proportions, Leonard said the Grafton round had been 'quite an achievement for the local association'.

“We have kids wall to wall in here and the stands are about three quarter capacity,” he said.

“Sport in this area is really growing but we don't have enough of the facilities ... when the championships (are) in Tamworth the games are being played on school courts.

“(But) we have just gone from strength to strength.”

With scarce avenues for junior basketball to hone and tweak their abilities, Leonard said the championships were one of the only rays of light for junior development in the region.

“Basically in this area it is the only development,” he said.

“(But) the kids have a big weekend and have a lot of fun.”

The championships will move on to Coffs Harbour and Tamworth before making a return to Grafton, with the winners advancing to the finals where they will meet teams from other regional and metropolitan areas.

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