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Tuesday, February 19 2019 @ 09:04 am ACDT

Cairns-Fest Makes Way To Shanghai

It would have to be the promoter’s dream for AFL Cairns – a match that will feature four ex-Cairns players in the one match. Three on one team, one on the other. Fans from the northern Australian city know the game is coming north – just a little too far north. Shanghai, China, to be exact.

When the Gold Coast Suns run out onto Jiangwan Stadium on Saturday, mathematically, one seventh of the team (give or take) will hail from the Far North Queensland city. It is a city that has hosted premiership matches at Cazalys Stadium, as well as plenty of lesser games pre-season games prior to that. Along the way, local talent has threatened to make an impact, but this weekend will see the biggest representation of Cairns talent to date.
Young draftee from last year, Jacob Heron, will debut for the Suns after impressing in the NEAFL. The former Cairns Saints player will join fellow Cairns Saints product Jack Bowes, with Heron selected in the Forward Pocket. Bowes will again line up on the wing, whilst veteran Suns’ player, and former Manunda Hawks and South Cairns Cutters product, Jarrod Harbrow will steer the defence. Three Suns from Cairns – quite a feat in itself.

On the other side of the equation is big, bad Charlie Dixon. The powerhouse Port Adelaide forward (and himself a former Suns player) has become an even more valuable player since heading to South Australia. The former Redlynch Lions junior in Cairns went on to play senior footy, also with the Cairns Saints, before heading south to chase his AFL dream.

Whilst the annual AFL Premiership match (this year it was a round one clash between the Suns and North Melbourne played largely underwater) is still the biggest weapon in the AFL Cairns armoury to attract new players to the game, the remarkable event of four Cairns players actually making it onto the playing field in one of the AFL’s marquee matches – a premiership match in Shanghai – must be a marketing gift.

Cairns cannot lose out of this. Either the Suns win, steered home by three local players, or the Power get home on the ample back of Charlie Dixon. But bigger again is the selling point that Cairns truly is an AFL destination for matches to be played, and an AFL nursery which is now growing talent of the highest order at an ever-increasing rate. Or, possibly, the talent was always here – it is just being noticed more and more as footy in Cairns gains greater and greater exposure.

Kids playing footy up in the tropical northern climes can now believe, really believe, that they might be the next Heron, next Bowes, next Harbrow or next Dixon. Or any one of a growing number of Cairns products before them.

So, this weekend, as the footy eyes are projected to China, the people of Cairns – particularly the footy people – will have an ever-so-slightly greater interest in proceedings in Shanghai. All things going to play, that interest should also last well beyond next weekend.

Pictures: Charlie Dixon (Port Adelaide Power) Top Left. Jacob Heron (Gold Coast Suns) Top Right.
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