THE Lithgow City Rangers New Zealand football tours have been a regular feature of the local sporting calendar, with eight previous tours dating back from 1986 through to 2008.
The club is continuing this tradition with their ninth tour scheduled to depart on September 23.
This year’s tour is of special note in that for the first time the club will be taking a mixed group of players with the team having equal numbers of girls and boys.
The players are aged from 13 to 16 year old and will be playing five games against teams from Auckland and Rotorua in the North Island and Christchurch, Greymouth and Central Otago from the South Island.
It is also the first ‘next generation’ tour with several of the players’ parents including Nigal Lloyd, Christopher Anlezark and Brendon Colman returning to New Zealand with their children after participating in earlier club tours.
To mark this the club has also organised some friendly kick-abouts against parents from the New Zealand clubs.
Some other more senior club officials will be coming out of retirement to make their international debut.
In the past the local community got behind the players in their efforts to raise money towards the cost of the trip and the players are hoping for the same level of support as planning is under way for the 2012 tour.
A number of local business have already helped the Rangers tour squad with Lean and Bennett Toyota and Bathurst Hyundai sponsoring the children’s playing strip, Ironfest helping the team kick start the fundraising by letting the team run a canteen, Centennial Coal donating $300, Ample-Tech supplying sports bags for the kids along with support from Harvey World Travel, Lithgow Fitness Centre, Blackheath Home Hardware and Coleman’s Smash Repairs.
The tour’s major fundraising event is taking place this Saturday at the Wallerawang Bowling Club where a huge auction of sporting memorabilia will take place.
Rangers have secured some highly collectible items which will go under the hammer and all proceeds will go towards helping the families with expenses in New Zealand.
Up for up for auction will be Socceroos posters, jersey and signed prints of Harry Kewell and Lucas Neill; cricket memorabilia includes framed prints or lithographs signed by Shane Warne, Jeff Thompson, Wes Hall and Richie Benaud; a hand signed-framed print from No 10 Australian Kangaroo Steve “Blocka” Roach; “The Chosen Ones” framed print, hand signed by Wallabies captains James Horwill and John Eales; and motor racing collectibles including framed, hand signed posters from Steven Richards, Mark Winterbottom and Marcos Ambrose and a framed FPR V8 Supercar team shirt hand signed by Craig Lowndes and Glenn Seton.
There will be a number of other silent auctions on the night of other goods donated by local business.
Items will be on display from 5.30pm at the Wallerawang Bowling Club and the auction will start at 7.30pm.
Everyone is welcome.