The Sunshine Coast in Queensland recently hosted the 40th AFL Masters National Carnival.
The carnival was rated as the largest mass participation football event in Australia with over 60 teams across all eight Australian states and territories spread across seven age divisions for men (from over 35s to over 65s) and two for women (over 35s and over 40s).
More than 1600 players descended on the excellent facilities at the Maroochydore Multi Sports Complex each match day vying for the title of becoming an AFL Masters National Champion.
Additionally the off field events for participants provided a great range of organised fun and entertainment for all those in attendance, including a grand final day "meet and greet", the prestigious Hall of Fame and the gala night at Aussie World where carnival winners, best and fairest division awardees and All Australian recipients were feted with Alastair Lynch, triple AFL premiership Brisbane Lions player and Fox Footy commentator hosting the event.
Warm humid conditions with light winds and an expected top temperature of over 25C greeted all those in attendance for the Sunday games, which ran from 8am to 8pm under lights.
Neil Rainbow's over 65s Vic Metro team boasted 38 skilled players, which forced coach Neil Maynard to split the numbers into two contending divisional teams.
Rainbow's team faced the Allies, a combination of other states and territories, in a midday game. In a very competitive clash Rainbow was played off the halfback flank, with his team combining well to defeat the unrelenting Allies by a couple of goals.
Wednesday's game against the strong Queensland state team proved to be a battle of defences in windy conditions with Rainbow again performing in a defensive role.
The game was tough and physical with each state not giving an inch. In fact it was an inch off pushing the ball over the point line that prevented Vic Metro from winning in the dying seconds, the game resulting in a draw.
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Friday's game against a strong South Australian team proved too much for Rainbow's Vic Metro side, with SA winning by a couple of goals.
Rainbow showed his fitness by playing for both his Vic Metro over 65s team as well as playing for the Allies team in later games that were scheduled for Wednesday and Friday match times.
The other Vic Metro over 65s team, which comprised many former 2022 carnival over 60s players, dominated all their games to win the 2023 AFL Masters National Championship title.
As part of the 2023 AFL Masters National Championship medal presentation, Shirley Rixon - part of the successful team's structure - was recognised for her timekeeping efforts with a national championship medal which was personally presented by EJ Whitten Junior.
It is believed Rainbow, at 75, is the oldest active Australian rules footballer playing in a senior men's competition (AFL Sapphire Coast) in Australia.
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