TOUCH: They haven't received a kind draw but Gladstone Under-14 touch football coach Tony Martin is backing his troops to perform well at the Queensland Touch Junior State Cup beginning today in Hervey Bay.
Seven Gladstone sides will be amongst a record group of 220 teams that are scheduled to compete at the State Cup.
The July 6-8 carnival will feature more than 3500 players who will play 450 games across 21 fields over three days at the Hervey Bay Sports Complex.
The event is the biggest one yet in the tournament's 22-year history.
The carnival caters for under-10 boys and girls and goes up in two-year increments until U18s.
Gladstone Touch Association will take teams in every age group except for U18s with Martin's U14 side and the U16 girls are expected to perform strongly during the three-day carnival.
The U14 boys have been drawn in Pool C alongside seven other sides from across the state.
Martin, who played 122 NRL games for the Melbourne Storm and New Zealand Warriors along with stints in the English Super League, has been nurturing the U14 boys since U12s and believes they'll make a good account for themselves despite an unfavourable draw.
"We've drawn a pretty hard pool, it usually goes on seedings but we're not seeded this year,” Martin said.
"We've drawn Toowoomba's number one side who have won the State Cup the last two years.
"Redlands are a top team from Brisbane and the Gold Coast are usually very strong. It's a huge tournament with teams from all round Queensland.”
The 1999 Storm premiership centre has been preparing the U14 boys since February and is hoping that time spent together will translate into some positive results from the opening whistle.
"We'll concentrate on our game, we have Bundy first up and we've played them a couple times before,” he said.
"They're a team we know well and have done well against before.
"We've got some good players and leaders in our team and in the last couple of tournaments the boys have got better and better.
"We ended up with three tough teams in our pool but I'm confident we can improve from a few months ago.
"Making the quarter finals is the goal and I've spoken to them about continuing to improve and playing better every time they come together.”
The 38-year-old financial planner is banking on a top two finish in Pool C to progress to the final eight of the competition, although a place in the knockout rounds is still possible from third spot with the two highest third-placed Pool teams also progressing.
Martin's son, Tana is one of the boys in the Gladstone side.