SOME of the Border’s most exciting indigenous footballers will travel to Wagga today for the fourth annual Jack Atkinson Memorial Carnival.
Youngsters Lonnie Hampton and Jarrah Maksymow will be joined by former Port Adelaide player Derek Murray, Hayden Murray, Matt Lewington and Dean and Hayden Heta as part of the Border-based Millewah Suns.
Millewah is the Aboriginal name for the stretch of the Murray River that travels through Albury.
North Albury premiership player and Jindera premiership coach Rob Murray has come out of retirement as playing coach for the Suns.
Murray hasn’t played since the Bulldogs lost the grand final to Osborne in 2009.
Team manager John Murray said the Suns would be looking to improve on last year’s third placing.
“We missed out on making the grand final by four points in our first year at the carnival,” Murray said.
“It was a good experience with last year’s winners boasting former AFL players Chris Johnson and Xavier Clarke.
“It’s a terrific opportunity for the younger players like Lonnie and Jarrah to showcase their talents in front of a big crowd.
“A lot of local businesses have come on board as sponsors and we’ve been training once a week for the past seven weeks.
“We have been getting good numbers at training and if our training form is anything to go by we should be ultra-competitive.
“We have plenty of talent in the side and Dean Heta was named player of the carnival for us last year.”
Eight teams participate in the event with two pools of four teams.
Each side plays three matches with the winner of each pool to meet in the grand final.
While the showpiece of the carnival will be the football and netball, the event is quickly becoming a community festival with a broader significance.
The carnival has a strong focus on education and healthy lifestyle with an overall goal of teaching the community about the importance of staying in school, getting a job and being healthy.
The event is alcohol- and drug-free and there will be indigenous community-based programs involved in the carnival which is expected to attract more than 5000 people through the gates.