NRL fans are snapping up what’s left of accommodation and flights to Townsville for the State of Origin opener, sending demand soaring.
The NRL stands to rake in $8 million from the Queensland Government after choosing the north Queensland city to replace a potentially locked down or heavily restricted Melbourne to host the June 9 match.
But airlines are also set to cash in, with Virgin Australia forced to add another 3000 seats linking Townsville with Sydney and Brisbane from June 8 to 10.
It’s not just fans who will be travelling in for the game, as organisers attempt to bump up Queensland Country Bank Stadium’s 25,000-seat capacity by an extra few thousand with a temporary grandstand.
Those who miss out on tickets will have to make do with a street celebration in Townsville or try again for game two at the much bigger Suncorp Stadium on June 27.
That means Brad Fittler’s Blues will be forced to play the first two games of the series north of the border and if things go awry, it could all be over before they’ve had a chance to play on home soil in game three on July 14.
The choice to shift the showpiece game north instead of to a neutral venue in Canberra — or a bid from the NSW government to hold the match in Sydney — was condemned by many on Monday.
Abdo announces Origin I move to Townsville
“They’re trying to say, and sugar coat it, saying the reason why it’s in north Queensland is because it’s as far away from any risk of an outbreak as possible. And that’s their biosecurity advice,” Sydney Morning Herald columnist Andrew Webster told Nine’s 100% Footy.
“That said, I think it’s fundamentally wrong that the first two matches of the series are in the one state. That just doesn’t make sense.”
Blues Origin legend Phil Gould wasn’t phased with the choice of state but was baffled by the decision to play the match away from Origin’s traditional homes of Suncorp Stadium and Stadium Australia.
“I don’t care. Play on Anzac Parade, use a brick for a football, doesn’t really matter,” Gould told 100% Footy.
“My Origin venues are ANZ Stadium in Sydney and Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane. So, I just would have gone to either one of those, those are the Origin venues.
“I’m not putting Townsville down, I’m not saying we shouldn’t go there. It will be a nice experiment it will be good for the Townsville people to see it.”
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