By Casey O'Connor
As we hurtle towards the NRL season, the focus of many rugby league fans last weekend might have been on the All Stars game between the Indigenous and Maori teams. However there was plenty of action in North Queensland that may have captivated the attention of not just FNQ audiences. After spending several days in Cairns spreading the love the Cowboys and Broncos faced off at Barlow Park Cairns in pretty damp conditions.
The conditions did not bother the almost sell out crowd who watched a quality trial game in which the Cowboys got the upper hand in the second half and came away with bragging rights. No game between these two clubs is “just a trial” with the spirited rivalry that exists between the clubs.
Further down the road in Townsville fans queued to get their first look inside the brand new Townsville Stadium and then relished the opportunity to visit the inner most sanctums of the facility usually reserved only for players.
Of course one of the major talking points was the unveiling of the much anticipated statue of Johnathan Thurston. JT might not be an official NRL immortal but try telling that to the NQ faithful.
The statue immortalises Thurston’s unforgettable drop goal in extra time of the 2015 grand final handing the Cowboys their first premiership victory. It is a moment I am sure is etched in the minds of all NRL fans whether or not you follow either the Cowboys or the Broncos.
The statue does not disappoint and certainly does that moment of NRL history justice.
The NRL season kicks off on March 12 which is not too many sleeps away and that brand new Cowboys Stadium will be christened with a replay of the 2015 grand final on Friday March 13. Not sure if that means it will be a Black Friday for the Broncos.
In football mad NQ where fans and players have had to do with an upgraded and upgraded and upgraded trotting facility turned football venue since joining the NRL in 1995, the new Stadium is regarded as something special. You can bet they (Cowboys) will be circling the wagons and protecting it against marauding Indians or just unsuspecting NRL opponents.
No surprise that this first game sold out with almost minutes of tickets going on sale.
It really will be a moment in NRL history to be relished.