Townsville has been announced as the new venue for game one of the series after the NRL was forced to move the match from Melbourne due to the recent COVID-19 outbreak.
Townsville was chosen after a bid from the Queensland government and the NRL stated the city “has the lowest risk of a COVID outbreak impacting the game and the least financial fallout of the available venues”.
Queensland recorded zero new cases on Tuesday with 13 active, while overnight testing numbers were delayed.
The Premier said the cost of the event is “commercial in confidence” and NSW’s critical response to the venue switch is comical.
“I understand New South Wales are whingeing and you’d expect that from New South Wales,” she said on Tuesday.
“They’re good at whingeing and that’s all I ever hear is whinge, whinge, whinge from New South Wales. This is value for money … and the benefits that it will bring into the local economy is going to be flowing.”
Treasurer Cameron Dick said the investment cannot be underestimated in the value it will bring to north Queensland.
“Northern Australia has never – let alone northern Queensland – has ever seen a sporting event of this kind. And so we think every dollar we’ve spent has been well spent to support regional Queensland to support the economy of the north,” he said.
“When it comes to highly competitive events, we need to secure them for Queensland, and we will spend what we think is appropriate to get those big events for Queensland.
“These are just the words of a bunch of sore losers. That’s just the reality they (NSW) wanted this game, they didn’t get it, Queensland won again, and we’re really proud of that.
Dick echoed the premier’s comments, saying tax payers will not be made aware of the money spent due to commercial in confidence.
Townsville hotels are already reporting a massive rush on rooms for the June 9 clash and special temporary grandstands will be constructed at the “open” end of the city’s new Queensland Country Bank Stadium to push capacity to more than 27,000.
The event is expected to inject at least $5 million into the local economy as Townsville braces for an impromptu party built around the once-in-a-lifetime relocated Origin clash.
The region’s peak economic lobby group is confident it is up to the task of pulling together a world-class event.
“These sorts of events are normally months, if not years, in the making, and nine days is a very short lead time,” Lisa Woolfe, director of visitor economy and marketing with Townsville Enterprise told the ABC.
“But we are North Queensland, and we do not shy away from a challenge.”.
Accommodation and transport are top of the list, with Magnetic Island, off the coast of Townsville, also touted as a potential option for footy fans.
“It’s only 20 minutes away and you can use a very efficient ferry service to get from the game to your accommodation on Magnetic Island,” Woolfe said.
“We will certainly see pretty well every bed in this city and across Magnetic Island full over that period.
“We are leaving no stone unturned to make sure that every person who wants to be in this city to see [Origin] have the opportunity to do just that.”
Townsville Airport general manager Brendan Cook told the ABC they were looking forward to welcoming excited NRL fans.
“We are talking to our airline partners about scheduling additional flights to North Queensland to coincide with this event,” he said.
The announcement comes soon after both Virgin and Qantas added more year-round flights to and from Townsville.
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