MEL Downes hung up his whistle last year.

The long-time soccer referee finally called it time after officiating in the annual Maryborough Masters Games.

Twelve months later, the Games are about to begin again and Downes has resisted the temptation to get out in the middle again.

While Downes will be on the sidelines over the next two days, there won’t be a shortage of other players and officials in action at Granville’s Federation Park.

Fourteen teams, some 150 players, will tackle playing soccer when the 2011 Maryborough Masters Games kicks-off today.

Soccer and softball will be the first two cabs off the rank in the annual smorgasbord of sport for seasoned athletes.

They will give their all in 10 different sports and, even if they don’t succeed in getting their hands on a medal, they can still officially be called a Master.

The eight remaining sports – bowls, athletics, swimming, basketball, eight ball, croquet and shooting (rim fire and pistol) will be held over the weekend of October 1 and 2.

Almost 600 athletes aged from 20 to over 80 from across Australia are expected to take part.

The record for competitors was set in 1994 when 1600 used the event as preparation for the World Masters Games in Brisbane.

Soccer has always proved to be one of the biggest drawcards during the Games and Downes said it was no different this year.

“We are one team shorter than 12 months ago but the numbers are healthy,” he said.

“There are five women’s teams and nine men’s coming here to give winning gold their best shot – there can only be one winner in each division though.

“I am sure the competition will be as competitive as it always is.”

The soccer action starts at 11.30am today.

Elsewhere, four softball teams will be aiming to be big hits at Fairfield Park in Searle St.

Play starts at 9am.

Richard Harvey

Appeared in the Fraser Coast Chronicle – 24th Sep 2011