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Sunday, May 26 2019 @ 05:07 am ACST

Up, Up and Away…In Cairns

The Far North Queensland city of Cairns is about to host a very special football match. The AFL Premiership season for 2018 starts this weekend across the nation and Cairns is in the exciting position of hosting one of the Round One fixtures with the Gold Coast Suns hosting the North Melbourne Kangaroos at Cazalys Stadium on Saturday evening.

With the Suns’ home at Metricon Stadium at Robina being seconded into the grand scheme of the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, the club has been forced to find options across the lands to play home fixtures. Cairns has been given the biggest, tastiest cherry of all with the honour of an opening round – traditionally one of the best attended rounds in a season with fans having endured their six month break from footy and desperate to get to a match.

Whilst neither team reached the finals last season, both the Suns and Roos have been developing northern talent, making the match a significant showcase of the “best” that North Queensland has to offer.

Former Cairns Saints’ junior, Jack Bowes, has been tearing up the training track over the off season for the Suns. Already tipped as a big improver for 2018, Bowes has been selected on a wing for the Suns. He knows every blade of grass on Cazalys Stadium – almost at a personal level – and will be itching to show his wares to an adoring “home” crowd.

Jarrod Harbrow, a former Manunda Hawk and South Cairns Cutters player, has long been one of the Suns’ leaders and is the backline general in a team being reshaped by new coach, Stuart Dew. Like Bowes, Harbrow knows the vagaries of Cazalys Stadium well and will relish playing there again.

Jacob Heron will not play, but is the third Cairns player on the Suns’ list after being rookie-drafted last year. His appearance on the Suns’ list shows the depth to which Gold Coast has invested in Cairns-based talent. The Suns have always been keen to embrace the AFL Cairns product with Charlie Dixon (now with Port Adelaide), Lewis Moss and Rex Liddy all having been with the Suns at some point.

North Melbourne also has a North Queensland connection, albeit with Cairns football rival Townsville. Whilst neither are selected to play this weekend, both Braydon Preuss and Josh Williams played their junior footy at Townsville club, Hermit Park Tigers. There will be footy fans driving the four hours from Townsville to Cazaly’s, eager for their own footy fix after Townsville hosted a recent JLT Community Series match between the Suns and Geelong Cats. The Townsville connection adds another layer of interest to the clash.

The curtain-raiser for the match will feature the North Queensland Challenge Cup between AFL Cairns premiers, Port Douglas Crocs, and the AFL Townsville premiers, Hermit Park Tigers. That will certainly drive the city versus city rivalry further.

Crowds for AFL Premiership matches in Cairns have dipped below the ten thousand mark in recent years, but this new and prime timeslot opening the new season is a golden opportunity for the Cairns footy public – and population in general – to get behind the game and aim for a record crowd. It is hoped that fans will be pouring into the stadium on the day, but also being involved in a myriad of promotional opportunities whilst the teams are in Cairns including open training sessions, autograph signings, meet the player opportunities and some community visits by players.

The match gets under way tomorrow (Saturday) with a 6.25pm kick off. Tickets are still available for what us sure to be a fantastic show in Cairns of the best AFL football has to offer on many fronts.
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