No Ablett- No Worries For Townsville
Friday, March 02 2018 @ 10:01 am ACDT
Contributed by: Wesley Hull
As the AFL’s JLT Community Series pre-season competition wriggles its way around the country, North Queensland is preparing for its own extravaganza of AFL talent across March as first Townsville and then Cairns host matches. Townsville gets under way this weekend when the Gold Coast Suns and the Geelong Cats met in their JLT fixture. Cairns will then host the Round 1 AFL match between the Gold Coast Suns and North Melbourne Kangaroos.
The city of Townsville was looking forward to the Gary Ablett grudge match. With Ablett leaving the Sun and returning to his native Geelong last trade season, it gave the local fans the chance to watch an old-fashioned stoush between two past and present cat owners. Sadly, a hamstring injury will see Ablett ruled out of the match.
But, the people of Townsville would not be too disheartened. They will still host a great game of footy between the rising Suns from their home state and a Geelong side than has enjoyed an era of success – including three flags – since 2007.
Preparations are already under way at Riverway Stadium (formerly known as Tony Ireland Stadium) to entertain the enthusiastic crowds on match day as well as local events in the lead up to the match involving both teams mixing with the Townsville community. On the day, the usual local curtain raiser matches will be played featuring local talent. The Gold Coast Suns will also hold their Community Camp in the city, interacting with kids as they bring the game to the people.
For more information on events in Townsville, visit the AFL Townsville Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/afltownsville/
The Townsville City Council website states, “Townsville Mayor Jenny Hill said having the Gold Coast Suns play Geelong in the first match of Gary Ablett’s return shows that we are a major sporting destination in Australia.
“Townsville is cementing its reputation as the premier sporting city in Northern Australia,” Cr Hill said.
“This game between the Suns and the Cats should be one for the fans to savour with Gary Ablett back in the blue and white against the team he used to captain.
“It is important that we support the game through buying tickets as Townsville wants to host a regular season AFL game in the next couple of years.”
Cr Hill said these major sporting events are a big economic opportunity for local businesses.
“Hosting major sporting events such as the AFL, provides a real economic boost to the region and helps to create jobs for locals,” Cr Hill said.
Councillor Maurie Soars, an active member of the Townsville AFL community, said he is excited to see the national competition come to the city.
“Townsville is a very sport-centric city, and we have a lot of talented athletes competing all over the world,” Cr Soars said.
“Bringing the AFL competition to Townsville is a great way to encourage locals to get involved and develop AFL in North Queensland.
“Townsville is a key recruitment area for the Gold Coast Suns and I hope that locals head out and support what is sure to be an exciting game.”
The match is the first of two for the region. Just three weeks later Cairns will host their historic Round One match when the Gold Coast Suns hold a home game against North Melbourne Kangaroos at Cazalys Stadium. It continues a run of hosting AFL premiership matches that goes back to 2011 – each featuring the Gold Coast Suns.
Due to the Commonwealth Games being held on the Gold Coast, the Suns have been displaced from Metricon Stadium until mid-way through the season. The moving of a home match to Cairns is part of their strategy for 2018. It is also a huge bonus for Cairns to have a season opener.
Fans in Cairns may also get to celebrate seeing two Cairns products in Jarrod Harbrow and Jack Bowes play again at Cazalys where they started their junior careers.
This weekend, however, it is Townsville’s time to shine – despite recent wet weather. That will not stop fans descending on Riverway Stadium for the Suns and the Cats –Ablett or no Ablett.