The 30th Sale United Football Club annual Primary School Twilight Tournament kicked off last week with a record-breaking 67 teams, making this year’s tournament the biggest since its inauguration in 1993.

Almost 700 Wellington Shire primary school students descended upon the Godfrey Baldwin Reserve on Monday, October 9, for their opening 2023 Twilight Tournament matches.

It was an extra special affair for the Fairhall and Richardson families, as Zeppelin Richardson, Ava Fairhall, and Lucy Fairhall played soccer at Twilight just like their parents, Christopher Richardson and Ashleigh Fairhall (nee Richardson), did 30 years ago in the inaugural tournament.

St Mary’s Maffra Foundation student Hamish Bell runs with the ball, supported by teammates Asher Murphy and Judson Harrap. Photos: Zoe Askew

Foundation teams were first to take the field, with the tournament’s littlest players kicking off just after 4pm.

The last of the night’s 33 games commenced at 7.30pm, with the tournament’s eldest competitors, Year 5/6 teams, taking the field.

Foundation teams taking home the three points after Round 1 were 545 Kerr, Gippsland Grammar Flames, St Mary’s Sale Foundation, PS Kangaroos, Guthridge Tigers and Longford.

In the Year 1/2 Black competition, PS Ninjas, Maffra Eagles, Longford Blue and Gippsland Grammar Storm sealed an advantage ahead of Round 2.

Gippsland Grammar Bolts, Tommy’s Lightning Smashers, St Mary’s Sale 1/2 Team and Longford White were victorious in the Year 1/2 Green competition.

In the Year 1/2 White competition, Gippsland Grammar Tornados, Tommy’s Imperials, The Little Kicks and Gippsland Grammar Meteors finished Round 1 with three points.

St Mary’s Maffra Year 2 student Clarisse Abon.

Gippsland Grammar Hurricanes, Gippsland Grammar Comets, Tommy’s Yellow and 545 Nevin had wins in the Year 3/4 Green competition. At the same time, Gippsland Grammar Lightning, Stratty Speed Demons, Longford Blue and Guthridge Sharks claimed wins in the Year 3/4 White competition.

In the Year 5/6 Green competition, St Mary’s Sale 5/6 Team and Airly Thunder took home three points while a draw saw Guthridge Rams and Longford 5/6 claim one point each.

Red Fury, Maffra Eagles, St Mary’s Sale 5/6 TEAM, and Gippsland Grammar Thunder sealed victories in the Year 5/6 White competition.

St Mary’s Maffra is one of two schools that has registered teams in the Twilight Tournament for the first time in its 30-year history.

St Mary’s Maffra Eagles Grade 1/2 Team.

Rebecca Stobie, a teacher at St Mary’s Maffra, has taken on a coaching role for all four of the school’s registered teams, with her sons Jimmy and Eddie playing in their first Twilight Tournament this year as part of the Eagles’ Year 1/2 Team.

“My students and own children absolutely loved their first experience of Twilight Soccer,” Stobie said.

“Students have been practising during recess and lunch times in anticipation for Monday night.

“It was the talk of the yard on Tuesday morning – about how awesome twilight soccer is with students already counting down to the next game.

“Students are keen and eager to run training sessions at lunchtime – such a positive response to their first experience of soccer.

“The reason why I was keen to get our school involved is because in PE classes, we focused on soccer whilst the Women’s World Cup was running, and students showed a very keen interest.

“I wanted to provide students with the opportunity to try a new activity.

“It has been so wonderful to see certain students who would have previously said they were not into sport have a go and love it.”

St Mary’s Maffra Year 2 student Jimmy Stobie.

Stobie received positive reports from St Mary’s Maffra children and teachers following the first night of the 2023 Twilight Tournament.

“All positive reports from the children and parents from St Mary’s,” Stobie said.

“Considering the large number of schools involved, the competition was very well run – a very positive and happy atmosphere.”

Stobie said the Twilight Tournament provides numerous benefits to the region’s youngest.

“It provides local children with the opportunity to try and participate in a sport not traditionally played at our school/town, which has predominantly been involved in AFL, netball and basketball,” she said.

“It has been a great option for students who have tried traditional sports and not enjoyed them, and being a team sport, it helps to improve social skills and teamwork.

“Parents/guardians enjoy the social aspect of catching up with other parents whilst watching their child play soccer.

“Feedback I received from parents was how enjoyable it was and that their child loved their first soccer experience.”

Nambrok Denison Primary School has also entered teams for the first time this year.

Last night was Round 2 of Sale United Football Club’s Twilight Tournament.

For more information and weekly results, visit Sale United’s Facebook page.