Bathurst District Football is set to host its second major junior football carnival in the space of three weeks, with the Proctor Park Challenge on March 6-7.
The Proctor Park Challenge is a pre-season tournament for girls in under 12s, 14s, 15s and 17s, attracting teams from as far afield as Sydney, Canberra, Newcastle and Wagga Wagga, while the local area will be represented by Bathurst (under 12s and 14s) and Western NSW FC (under 14s).
Football NSW development manager of regional football Andrew Fearnley said the competition has built an impressive reputation over the years, which has seen a huge increase in team entries.
“I think that the reputation of the tournament is what assists in teams returning and new teams wanting to be involved,” he said.
“There are a huge number of teams. Economically, there is a huge positive effect towards the town outside of football too, through accommodation, eating and entertainment.”
The Proctor Park Challenge – which is in its 23rd year in 2021 – has attracted 72 entries, a massive increase from the 20 teams that contested the inaugural event back in 1999.
Bathurst District Football secretary and treasurer Grant Foster detailed the history of the competition, which evolved from the old pre-season Mitchell Cup for women’s state league teams and the Mitchell Shield for women’s club teams.
“These were immensely successful for around 10 years. Clubs wanted to add a similar competitive hitout for its younger teams, to work alongside with Football NSW development of the state league’s youth sides,” he said.
“Hence the Proctor Park Challenge was born, eventually growing to the point where a different weekend was required just for it. Interest in the women’s events dwindled but the girls’ event just kept getting stronger.”
Throughout the weekend, the local Bathurst representative teams will gain valuable experience against some of the best girls teams in the state.
And it’s also set to be a big weekend for the local Bathurst economy region, with players and their families already booking out hotels and accommodation sites months in advance.
“Economically speaking, millions are brought into the area, with the 73 teams to bring around 1200 players, as well as anywhere between 3000-6000 extras,” Foster said.
“Accommodation is booked out not only in Bathurst but surrounding towns and local eateries, restaurants and cafes are booked out, as are pubs and clubs. After a crushing COVID period, the boost and benefit to local businesses is huge.”
The Proctor Park Challenge had originally been scheduled for February 27-28, however, it was rescheduled to this weekend to avoid a clash with a Supercars event at Mount Panorama.
2021 Proctor Park Challenge Fixtures