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T here are probably a few State of Origin fans out there who had not planned on taking their post-match party back to a tent. But it says something about demand when hundreds of the canvas constructs are erected in Townsville to fill an accommodation shortfall for a rugby league match moved there at the last minute.
And a sell-out crowd has only reconfirmed that certain codes do not necessarily have to belong to certain locations. But this is the first time it has gone truly regional. The tent city, called Footy Basecamp, was built on the run in three days last week and is set to house up to people, as hotels manage waiting lists and even Magnetic Island experiences an influx of tourists from other parts of the state and south of the Tweed.
If Covid has offered sport a silver lining, it is that traditional grounds are not everything.
In uncharted territory such as this, there are no statistics to hint at an advantage one way or the other. Does the mere fact of it being in Queensland foretell a maiden win for new Queensland coach Paul Green? Are they better at breathing the air up there? Or has Brad Fittler gained an upper hand in terms of intra-squad familiarity by picking effectively the entire Penrith Panthers team?
Over the weekend, Maroons great Billy Slater came out with a surprise by predicting NSW may actually benefit from one element of the far-north environment. In reality, though, Slater could not possibly know about something which has never ly occurred.
Not all have the appetite. Many dyed-in-the-wool fans are attached to venues dating back generations, and taking time to come around to the idea that old practices can be renewed somewhere else. Change, as they say, is scary.Antd0gg from the Backyard - Baby Lets Have Sex Tonight (feat. YX) (Official Audio)
But the seed had been planted, as evidenced by calls to stage the decider at Optus Stadium after Perth proved over the weekend that it can emulate Dreamtime experience outside of Victoria. Mayor Jenny Hill even proposed a half-day public holiday on game day to allow workers in nearby regions time to travel. The NRL is due on Tuesday to release an extra 2, tickets for seats in a temporary grandstand installed at the northern end of the ground, where Birds of Tokyo, Jessica Mauboy and Busby Marou will provide pre-game entertainment.
Locals who do not secure a ticket can still be part of the spectacle, with some planning to participate in the Maroons March to the stadium and then race home to catch the match on TV. The local council has also unveiled plans to transform the popular Flinders Street into the Caxton Street of the north, with big screens and entertainment set up to cope with the overflow and mirror its Brisbane counterpart famous for its game-day buzz.
Origin live sites have also been built to allow the whole community to watch the game. In a city with a rugby league heartbeat, at a new stadium where Jonathan Thurston is immortalised in bronze, Townsville is the next logical step towards a less restricted sporting landscape. State of Origin. Tent city springs up in Townsville as State of Origin goes truly regional.
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