International players have touched down in Port Macquarie ahead of the 2023 NSW Senior State Cup, which kicks off on Friday, December 1.
Close to 6000 people are set to visit the region for the three-day tournament. For the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic, the event will also feature six international teams hailing from England, Singapore, Japan and the Philippines.
All four nations will use the prestigious event as a warm-up for the 2024 World Cup to be held in the UK.
England have their Men's Open, Women's Open and Senior Women's teams in attendance, while Singapore have their Men's and Women's Open. Both Japan and the Philippines have sent Mixed Open teams for the tournament.
England Touch Men's Open captain Dom Tripp said he was excited to be part of the tournament.
"We're blessed to be in Australia... and to play against some of the best players in the world," he said.
"This is a good opportunity to spend some time together as a team [ahead of] the World Cup next year."
England Touch Women's Open player Bronte Sykes said the event provides an opportunity for the teams to be challenged in a high-intensity competition.
"[The competitors] are fast and they are fit [and] that is exactly what we're out here for," she said. "We're here to be challenged."
NSW Touch General Manager Dean Russell said he was pleased to have the internationals back as well an increase in team numbers from the past few years.
"It's been a while since we've had them back here, COVID-19 played a little part in that," he said. "It speaks to the quality of this particular event that they want to come to Australia [ahead of the World Cup].
"They obviously see it as a prestigious event to enter into, and they know that they're going to get some of the toughest touch competitions in the world."
Wet weather has overshadowed the NSW State Cup over the years, with drainage a key issue at Tuffins Lane.
While Port Macquarie had rain on Wednesday, Russell said there was no cause for concern about the state of the fields.
"The fields are in great conditions," he said. "The rain we had last night probably helps us a little bit as it softens the fields.
"There's a little bit more predicted on Saturday, but nothing we can't cope with."
The three-day event, held at the Regional Stadium and Tuffins Lane from December 1-3, injects about $4 million into the Hastings economy.
Port Macquarie Hastings Councillor Adam Roberts said the Senior State Cup is the premier event on the region's sporting calendar and provides a significant boost to the local economy.
"After a couple of rain events over the last couple of years, it's fantastic to have this back," he said. "These events bring so much economic activity to the area and it puts us on a map as well.
"This event brings in thousands of people to our region and sometimes that results in them coming back for holidays.
"It also gives us an opportunity to show off Port Macquarie at its finest."
While the tournament is the clear focus, Sykes said the players have also managed to carve out some time for sightseeing.
"We've been loving the Koala Hospital, a couple of the team have adopted some koalas," she said. "We're loving the beaches as well, and the rainforest walk has been very popular."
Tripp said the coffee and beaches have been among the highlights of their stay.
"It's such a cool town," he said. "We're based right in the centre... so we're quite happy to walk down to get a coffee and go to the beach. [It's] things that we don't get to do at home, so we're absolutely loving it."
Teams from 48 affiliate associations will play pool matches on Friday and Saturday with finals on Sunday.
Port Macquarie has six teams in action; men's under-20s, mixed open A, mixed seniors, mixed masters, women's masters and women's under-20s.
Port Macquarie Touch president Wayne Gleeson said he was quietly confident about the local teams' chances.
IN OTHER NEWS: