A key stepping-stone in the Queensland Rugby pathway, the Junior State Championships are a breeding ground for the next generation of Queensland Reds stars.
One of those is Mac Grealy, who represented his region – the Darling Downs – in 2016.
The Downlands College and South Toowoomba Kookaburras product made his professional debut at the age of 19 this season, joining the likes of Tate McDermott, Kalani Thomas, Hamish Stewart and Isaac Henry as recent graduates of the State Championships to Super Rugby.
For Grealy, the chance to play against the best of the best from around the state pushed him on to achieve higher honours in the future.
“It’s where you get to learn the most about footy,” Grealy said.
“To go down to play against teams from around the state, it’s a step up and you get to challenge yourself which I think has propelled in later years to where I am now.
“For me, it got my name out there and it built a lot of confidence that I can play against the best and do well.
“Once you’ve experienced it, you want to do it again and again.”
The former Queensland and Australian schoolboy looks back fondly on his time at the carnival, with his Downs side recording a win against one of the more-fancied Brisbane outfits at the 2016 championships on the Gold Coast.
It was Grealy who kicked the match-winning conversion that day, seeing him selected in the Queensland Country team at the conclusion of the carnival.
The carnival wasn’t only about winning for Grealy and his teammates, with the chance to represent his home region and play and travel alongside his mates his favourite experiences from the championships.
“I love playing for the Downs,” Grealy said.
“You’ve got your parents with you, the blokes you’ve grown up playing against and you get to make a team together.
“Because you have played against each other for so long in the same comp, to all get together from the regions and take on the Brisbane sides is really cool.
“To represent the Downs, it felt like the community came with us down to the Gold Coast.
“It makes you want to keep playing footy at high levels because of how enjoyable those carnivals are with your teammates.”
With Toowoomba Grammar School playing host, this year’s carnival is in Grealy’s hometown with the next set of rising stars from across the state set to descend on the Darling Downs this week.
“It’s going to be huge, it’ll be good to watch the boys go round and have a dig,” Grealy said.
“For the community itself, to host and bring in a lot of revenue and have the chance to watch some quality footy will be massive.”