RECORD numbers turned out for the Bowen Seagulls’ Corey Jensen Under-7s Gala Day, on Saturday.
What started out with 10 teams, four years ago, attracted 28 outfits from Bowen, Proserpine and as far afield as Emerald, Rockhampton and Townsville, to Denison Park this year.
There were 280 boys and girls showing off their league skills in front of Jensen, an NRL star with Brisbane Broncos now, who learnt his craft playing on the same field, when he was their age.
Jensen just about wore out his signing hand as he was under constant requests for autographs of programs, jerseys or footballs.
Proud parents and families sat under marquees or in the stands to watch the kids work up a sweat under a hot sun.
Crowd numbers were unavailable but it was probably a record as well, judging by the cars parked along Queens Road and around the neighbouring PCYC Club rooms.
Bowen Seagulls secretary Monika Piggott said the teams would play four games each during the lightning carnival.
The youngsters have graduated from playing tag in more junior leagues and now tackle each other, some with more vigour than others.
Many of the kids ended up with a few grazes and bruises but there were no injuries of note.
Wounded pride might have been more prominent, as some youngsters showed evasive skills picked up from watching their heroes on the big screen.
The junior games are open to girls as well as boys, but they get their own teams from the under-12s onwards.
The game is growing in popularity with Bowen youngsters, with 350 signed up this year compared to 90, just a few years ago.
Referees for the day came from the ranks of older Bowen Seagulls, who give their time to help future generations of the game’s stars.