North Queensland’s NRL premiership win could have long-lasting consequences after the party has died down, with officials using the maiden title to push their long-running battle for a new stadium in the area into overdrive.
While a new stadium in north Queensland may be news to most of the nation, in Townsville it has been a protracted and pitched battle over many years.
Townsville City Council and Townsville Enterprise want to see an integrated sports stadium and entertainment centre built on the banks of Ross Creek in the Townsville CBD.
It is part of a plan to transform the inner city including an arts precinct, boardwalks, restaurants and hotels.
The current stadium sits 17km from the city centre, was partly built by the players themselves in the lead-up to the inaugural season in 1995 and was constructed on the remnants of an old trotting track.
Addressing the ANZ Stadium crowd in Sydney following the Cowboys’ epic 17-16 grand final win over Brisbane on Sunday, superstar Johnathan Thurston used the platform to further the push.
“The last thing I want to say is that north Queensland deserves a new stadium,” he said, on a stage upon which Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk were also standing.
The state government has promised $100 million to the project, while the NRL and Townsville City Council have also supported it to varying degrees.
But it can’t become reality without federal coin.
In two weeks, the Cowboys’ hierarchy will meet with the prime minister to try and broker a deal that will get the project over the line.
At a civic reception at 1300Smiles Stadium on Monday, about 15,000 people poured through the gates.
A massive chant went up of ‘stadium, stadium, stadium’ during the reception.
Mundingburra MP Coralee O’Rourke said a major announcement would be made late this week.
“We have put a hard fight in for the stadium for a while now,” she said.
“But we definitely need the federal government to come on board and match the Palaszczuk government’s commitment of $100 million.
“Deliver the north Queensland stadium that the North Queenslanders deserve.”