THE 75th anniversary of school-age rugby league in the Illawarra and South Coast proved the game is more popular than ever.
After 21 gala days, the high school finals were held on Wednesday at Centenary Field at Albion Park, before the primary school children play on Thursday.
All the trophies are named after former Steelers and Dragons greats, including the Shaun Timmins Shield (under 13s), Steelers Shield (14s), Ben Creagh (15s), Dean Young (16s) and Ben Hornby (seniors), as well as league tag competitions.
On Thursday, the finalists will play for the Paul McGregor Shield (under 9-10) and Rod Wishart Shield (12-13s).
“I loved my school footy. In primary school I represented St Peter’ and Paul, Kiama and then Kiama High School,” Dragons forward Tariq Sims said.
“There is something special about representing your school. They were great times and great fun."
A record 527 teams and 5965 players from 118 schools played in the competition this year.
“This is one of our biggest events on the calendar,” Dragons community manager Paul Everill said.
“Many of our current NRL squad have been part of this special event, having fond memories representing their local high schools.
"The event emphasises the importance of fair play and sportsmanship, which our schools proudly display and take carriage of.”
ILLAWARRA AND SOUTH COAST SCHOOL AGE FINALS
Ben Hornby Shield (open age): Figtree 26 d Carroll College 8
Dean Young Shield (under 16): Edmund Rice College 20 d Narooma 0
Ben Creagh Shield (under 15): Warilla 14 d Picton 12
Steelers Shield (under 14): Holy Spirit 6 d Bowral 0
Shaun Timmins (under 13): Kiama 22 d Edmund Rice College 4
Girls league tag
Under 14: Warilla 44 d Carroll College 0
Under 16: Warilla 38 d Bomaderry 6