TOWNSVILLE would be converted into a Maroons fortress with thousands of additional stadium seats and an entertainment streak to rival Caxton Street if the State of Origin series opener is relocated from Covid-ravaged Melbourne.
With the MCG Origin I nearly untenable as the city goes through a fourth Covid lockdown, Townsville stands ready to host a first Origin game at the Queensland Country Bank Stadium on Wednesday to raise an estimated $ 5 million into the region’s economy pump .
A final decision could be made as early as Sunday, when growing case numbers force the Victorian government to admit its original dream is over.
Townsville is ready to take action. High-level talks are already underway between the NRL and the Queensland government over converting the cowboy capital into an Origin cauldron.
The discussions are believed to have added thousands of temporary seating at Townsville’s sparkling new stadium to increase the crowd over the regular capacity of 25,000.
The stadium’s « horseshoe » design would allow for thousands of temporary seating to be added to the open northeast end, just as the Metricon Stadium on the Gold Coast was increased from 25,000 to 40,000 for the 2018 Commonwealth Games.
The additional capacity would allow the NRL to generate significantly more revenue from a match that Cowboys legend Johnathan Thurston had promised to « drive people crazy ».
NSW would prefer to play in a « neutral » location like Canberra, Adelaide or Perth, especially if Origin II is already slated for Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane next month, but the NRL’s top brass were impressed by Townsville’s pitch, so the series opener is almost about to take place Definitely head north if Victoria doesn’t emerge from the lockdown later this week.
Townsville soccer legends Brent Tate and Gorden Tallis said an Origin game in north Queensland was a once in a lifetime opportunity.
Tate, who starred in 23 Origins, said it was the biggest sporting event ever to come to Townsville and he would climb the roof if he couldn’t get a ticket.
« Whatever the NRL has to do, they would just do it, they will just let it happen.
« If they could get 50,000 into the stadium, they’d sell it – that’s how crazy this town is for Footy. »
When asked about the mammoth preparations that would be required in the short term for such an event, NRL legend Gorden Tallis said no logistics were too difficult to overcome.
« I meet so many people (across the country) from North Queensland who have spent thousands of dollars on flights and accommodations.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, who spoke personally with NRL officials about bringing Game I north, said the stadiums could be 100 percent full under Queensland’s current Covid restrictions, which means the venue is up to that Rafters could be full.
« It meant 100 percent capacity at Suncorp for the final game of last season’s series, the Maroons won, by nearly 50,000, which sparked the famous ‘Queenslander’ cheer, » she said.
Townsville Mayor Jenny Hill said the city council was ready to transform Flinders Street in Townsville into Caxton Street in the north, with its proximity to the riverside stadium and an abundance of bars and restaurants ready to cater for Turn Origin Night into a party hub.
« We’re ready to take it and be the first city outside of Brisbane to host a country of origin. »
The tourism guides are also excited about the prospect of bringing around 15,000 visitors to the city to boost the local economy by several million.
« We know the North Queenslanders would have our stadium sold out in an instant and we are ready to take this opportunity. »
After Victoria reported five new cases of community transmission yesterday, the state’s coronavirus cluster has surged past 30, but the government is believed to be desperate to keep the Origin game given the future planning already set means the series wouldn’t return to Melbourne for several years.
As Townsville moves into all-time favorite status, an NRL spokesman said last night, « All options remain on the table. »
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