Queensland Reds Van Humphries and Ed Quirk with Central Highlands rugby juniors.
Queensland Reds Van Humphries and Ed Quirk with Central Highlands rugby juniors.

Reds hit the Highlands

THE Super 15 Rugby Trophy is never too far from the hands of Queensland Reds winning duo Van Humphries and Ed Quirk.

And last weekend in the Central Highlands that was no different.

However the Reds pair did find time to allow the next generation of rugby followers the chance to come as close as they could to the international sporting centrepiece without actually winning it.

Both were in town as part of a Central Highlands-wide tour which also coincided with the region's junior rugby sign-on in Emerald and Moranbah.

"A lot of them were surprised how big and how heavy it actually was," QRU CQ development manager Joel Johnston said.

Central Highlands Junior Rugby Union secretary Dana Jones said the visiting Reds were all and more of what they were expecting.

"They were just sensational," she said.

"They talked about their junior rugby and school, their experiences and the kids lapped it up... really good ambassadors for the sport."

Their presence certainly brought the crowds with 150 juniors signing on in Emerald and 60 players in Moranbah.

Registration numbers were 40 players up on last year's sign-on in Emerald with 85 "brand-new" players among those gearing up for the coming season.

Jones said those figures were on top of the existing 80-player base who signed-on in Tieri earlier this year.

A small contingent of junior players from a number of development teams were put through their paces in a coaching session at the Emerald Ag College on Saturday.

Players from the Bushrangers, Reds Junior Academy and Central Highlands High-Performance squads were led by Humphries, Quirk and Reds development staff in the training clinics.

"I think all the players got something out of it, especially in the scrum," Johnston said.

The Super 15 trophy is also touring to other regional centres around the state to celebrate the massive achievement with fans.

While the win will provide the game with unprecedented exposure which money can't buy, Johnston said it was something which had been a long-time coming.

"The Reds have always had a good following even in the dark days and their final's win only serves to strengthen that," he said.

MEANWHILE 16 of the Central Highlands' most talented junior rugby players are packing their kits, bound for the State Championships in Toowoomba this weekend.

The local representatives who were chosen from a player base stretching from Cairns to Bundaberg will compete as part of Bushrangers squads in a three-day tournament.

All players are vying for selection in state teams.

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