Mark Ella’s top five for the Koori Knockout
Rugby Union great Mark Ella isn’t placing any bets on who will win this year’s hotly-contested Koori Knockout.
The Knockout, billed as one of the biggest Indigenous sporting events in the world, is on this weekend at NSW’s Leichardt Oval, hosted by last year’s winners the Redfern All-Blacks.
Ella, who heads sport and internal productions at broadcaster NITV, says “anyone could win that competition”.
Over the NSW long weekend more than 100 men’s, women’s and junior teams from across the State will vie for top honours. Up to 30,000 spectators are expected to attend the semi-finals and finals on Sunday and Monday.
It will also be a weekend when careers can be launched or broken.
Ella says talent scouts are likely to be at some of the matches looking for the next sporting stars.
“They don’t dress in pink and stand out,” he says. “But there are a lot of player managers lurking in the shadows, so to speak, looking for the next Greg Inglis.
“It’s an opportunity. Player managers or rugby league clubs are always looking for the next generation of players.
“Certainly what’s going to happen over four days is some of the best rugby league talent both men and women that you will see in Australia.”
Matches will be held over several ovals in the Leichardt area from Friday to Monday, but if you can’t get to the games, NITV is broadcasting the main matches live.
Coverage will begin at 9am AEST on Sunday and Monday with full coverage of the semi-final and grand finals clashes.
Commentators will include Brad Cooke, Djuro Sen and Daniel Connifer, Joe Williams, Owen Craigie, Ronald Griffiths and George Rose.
So here are five things to watch out for at the Koori Knockout, or the NSW Indigenous Rugby League Knockout.
THE WOMEN’S MATCHES
Ella says the women’s matches always rate well on NITV.
“Women’s matches are played with a lot of passion and vigor,” he says. “You are used to seeing men belt the living daylights out of each other but women play with just as much vigor and the collisions are just as hard as the men.
“All the women’s matches are entertaining and they have a lot of skill, a lot of fast, elusive play just like the men. There’s no one team that stands out. I’ve been watching them over the last 10 years and they are all committed to playing at 1000 miles an hour.”
THE MEN’S MATCHES
Ella says it’s anyone’s competition.
“Over the years, the Yowies from Newcastle have held it. They were the champions the year before. The All Blacks are the home town favourites. There are a number of sides where I come from — the La Perouse Panthers, they will be competitive this year. It will be who turns up and plays best on the day because anybody could win this competition.”
The junior matches will be as hotly contested as the seniors, Ella says.
“Everything is competitive. Indigenous sport is very intense, very skillful. It’s pretty full-on.”
The Koori Knockout will also be a chance to catch up with old friends and make new ones.
There will be several special events over the weekend.
A free Friday Night Live event will be held on September 30 at the National Centre of Indigenous Excellence, in George St, Redfern, for all children up to 17. The night will include basketball and OzTag competitions and a barbeque.
Parents, guardians or team members must accompany the children.
On Saturday night, a free Deadly Disco will rock the NCIE from 6pm to 10pm for 14 to 17 year olds. It will include a disco, dance competition and a barbeque.
Again, children must be accompanied by adults.
Registration is essential for food and staff numbers.
For the adults, the official after party will be held at the Southern Cross Hotel, Princess Hwy, St Peters, on Saturday from 7pm to 2am.
AND FINALLY . . .
It won’t just be the rugby titles up for grabs on the weekend.
Also watch out — or enter if you dare — the NSW Aboriginal Barefoot Sprint Championship.
There are thousands of dollars in prize money up for grabs in the 100 metre sprint event which kicks off on Saturday and is sponsored by the NSW Office of Preventive Health.
It’s open to rugby league teams competing in the Knockout and community teams who competed in the Knockout health challenge project.
Registrations close on Friday at 12pm.
More information: Anthony Carter, 02 8738 8842 or email Anthony.Carter@sswahs.nsw.gov.au.