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Wednesday, October 16 2019 @ 12:22 pm ACDT

Townsville’s Festival of Footy Kicking Goals

Australia

The weather and the crowds arrived at Tony Ireland Stadium in Townsville on a recent weekend almost exactly as the script demanded. A crowd of 7000 paying fans as well as about 1000 kids descended on the city’s premier Australian Rules football venue for a show that had been years in dreaming and many months in arranging.

The largest city in North Queensland played host to its first ever NAB Cup game between the North Melbourne Kangaroos and the Gold Coast Suns. For the record North Melbourne 2.13.6 (102) defeated Gold Coast 1.11.14 (89), holding on by 13 points after having jumped out of the blocks early to lead by as much as 48 points.

With the northern summer sun reaching its fairly predictable 32 degrees, combined with a balmy 70% humidity, many felt it was the perfect conditions for a game of footy.

This idea wasn’t universally shared, with Kangaroo coach Brad Scott concerned about the energy sapping humidity, and AFL officials enacting the heat policy which included an extended bench and unlimited interchange to protect the welfare of players. But it’s North Queensland…the tropics…so that heat comes with the territory. Future plans to beat the heat include the upgrade of lighting at Tony Ireland Stadium to play games at night, out of the sapping daytime heat.

In the curtain-raiser to this match, the North Queensland Army AFL team took on the Townsville Tropical Ice Eagles representative team. In a tough and at times uncompromising clash, the Eagles won 96 to 63.

After the main event, the Townsville crowd were treated to another high calibre match with the Gold Coast Metro Academy taking on the North Queensland SUNS Academy. In a game dominated by tall forwards, the game was close till the final break before the Metro team piled on a 5 goal to 1 final quarter to win 13.6 (84) to 6.4 (40).

After the clash, 10 North Queensland players took the next step in their journey, being selected to try and make the Queensland Scorpions U18 team for the national championships later this year. This included players from Cairns, Townsville, Mackay, Capricornia and Cape York.

But this festival isn’t just about the elite AFL teams from down south. It is also about the grass roots football in Townsville and the opportunity to develop the game, the facilities and the community support for the future.

Kath Newman, the Regional Manager for AFL Queensland advised that in the lead up to the game, many school and club visits were undertaken by the visiting teams. Gold Coast Suns players visited 20 Townsville schools, including Palm Island, as well as many local junior clubs.

Additionally, Gold Coast players attended many community functions, including the "Boots For All" campaign launch as well as community visits to Ronald McDonald House, Lavarack Barracks, the Townsville Hospital, Aitkenvale PCYC, Uniting care and the Townsville Community Learning Centre.

The involvement across so many layers of the Townsville community will go a long way to ensuring repeat visits. The weekend was hailed as a huge success, but the Festival of Footy is far from over.

Coming up from the 8th to 12th of April the city plays host to both the Indigenous Kickstart Championships, from which the national indigenous team, the Flying Boomerangs, is selected. At the same time the Under 16 South Pacific Cup will take place, featuring the PNG Binatangs, the New Zealand squad and the combined Oceania team, chosen from the recent Oceania Cup last December.

If you are in North Queensland at that time it might well be worth slipping down to Tony Ireland Stadium and seeing just how much talent is on show during Townsville’s Festival of Footy.

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