THE Queensland government has brokered a deal that will see the Gold Coast Suns play for AFL Premiership points in both Cairns and Townsville over the next few years.
In an announcement on Wednesday, Tourism and Major Events minister Kate Jones insisted the arrangement would play a significant role in the code’s growth in North Queensland.
“Bringing the Gold Coast Suns up north is a big win for Queensland and it will be great to see Townsville hosting a premiership AFL game for the first time,” she said.
“Cairns and Townsville have an extremely strong AFL fan base and these games will help the code expand its reach in Queensland and give lovers of Aussie rules the chance to experience live AFL action in north Queensland.
“I am confident that these premiership games will attract sell-out crowds.”
Besides drumming up local interest in AFL, the deal will also position Cairns and Townsville as alluring tourist destinations for travelling fans.
“Securing these matches gives fans another reason to experience two of our most iconic destinations,” Jones said.
“This boost to visitor numbers will have a great impact on the local economy.
“Hosting these AFL Premiership games also reinforces Queensland’s standing as a premier major sporting events destination.”
— 7 News Townsville (@7NewsTownsville) October 18, 2017
With Gary Ablett Jr and several other stars seeking trades after another disappointing season, the Suns are at something of a crossroads as they prepare for their eighth campaign in the AFL.
This news comes only weeks after the unveiling of Gold Coast’s AFLW side, and chairman Tony Cochrane believes it is exactly what the club, the region and the sport need.
“We know North Queensland fans are passionate about AFL, and with the support of both the AFL and Tourism and Events Queensland, we are thrilled they will see the team play first hand in a series of matches in the region,” Cochrane said.
“As a club we have established significant support in Cairns and Townsville and enjoy playing our role in developing Australian Football throughout the region, which is also a key recruitment catchment for the Gold Coast Suns Talent Academy.
“In the past, through community camps, pre-season games and AFL premiership fixtures, the Gold Coast Suns has and will continue to support the growth of AFL in North Queensland.”
While rugby league is the dominant code in North Queensland, recent findings claim interest in Australia rules football is growing year on year throughout the region.
“One thing I know for sure is that North Queenslanders love their sport, and over the last few years we have seen the AFL increase its following in Cairns and Townsville,” said minister Coralee O’Rourke.
“To have a Queensland-based team play home games here is a great outcome and shows the Palaszczuk Government’s commitment to stimulating events tourism in north Queensland.”
Cairns has already hosted several AFL games, but the 2018 season will break new ground for the sport in Townsville.
In an enthusiastic endorsement of the arrangement, mayor Jenny Hill said it would only improve and diversify the city’s already-strong sporting culture.
“Today’s announcement is a vote of confidence in Townsville and will further raise the city’s sporting profile, and create new job opportunities in tourism and hospitality,” Hill said.
“In Townsville we already have an impressive track record for our capacity to stage big events and this will be another great offering for the city and the North Queensland region.
“We have the Cowboys, the Fire, V8s, next year we will have the Commonwealth Games, and the Gold Coast Suns AFL game will add to the breadth of our national sporting events.
“There is no doubt we can package our tourism products around this national sporting event that will appeal to all visitors for the match.”
Gold Coast finished second from bottom of the ladder in 2017, and online bookmakers are expecting more of the same next year.
On the last line of AFL Premiership betting at Sportsbet.com.au, the Suns are also $2.75 favourites to claim the least number of wins in 2018.
2018 AFL Premiership odds
$5 – Adelaide, GWS Giants, Sydney Swans
$7 – Richmond
$10 – Geelong
$11 – Port Adelaide
$13 – Melbourne
$15 – Essendon
$18 – Western Bulldogs
$23 – Collingwood, Hawthorn
$26 – West Coast
$34 – St Kilda
$41 – Fremantle
$51 – Carlton
$81 – Brisbane Lions, Gold Coast, North Melbourne
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