Congratulations to all involved in organising Rockhampton’s first NRL game. It was a huge success for rugby league and great marketing for Central Queensland.
I have been stuck in Canberra while Parliament is sitting given the COVID border closures so I missed the game. But it looked fantastic on TV. The shots of the Fitzroy, and Mount Archer looming over Browne Park, looked picturesque, and watching it from freezing Canberra made me more homesick for the CQ Tropical
With another game on this weekend, we get another chance to sell what CQ has to offer. I will be watching it from cold Canberra again but get along if you can.
Thanks to the NRL too for sticking by us after the first game was cancelled due to the recent Brisbane outbreak.
We need to build on this success though to host more NRL games in the future. I know our CQ rugby league officials are planning for this, and with the success of these games we have a strong case.
We should also reconsider a CQ NRL bid for the longer term. Geoff Murphy led an enormous effort to push for an NRL team over the past decade. In the end, the NRL (and Channel Nine) was keen on a second Brisbane team, and that option is the next cab off the rank.
But the great work that Jeff and his team did puts us in a good position to relaunch another crack. Andrew Abdo, the NRL CEO, has raised the idea of an 18th team joining the NRL after the second Brisbane team joins. The NRL has flagged the idea of having a second New Zealand team. That should not deter us though from putting a strong case forward about why CQ makes sense.
We are rugby league heartland. We produce an enormous array of rugby league talent, from current stars Cameron Munster, Harry Grant, Corey Oates and Ben Hunt to past greats like Dave Taylor, Matt Sing, Rhys Wesser and Scott Minto.
The mad support we have for rugby league means I am confident we would be at least as successful as the North Queensland Cowboys at attracting crowds, and probably more successful than the Gold Coast Titans. In 2019, before COVID, the Titans had an average crowd size of just 11,500.
While Rockhampton has a smaller population than Townsville, we have almost the same number of people in our region. The Greater Townsville area is home to 230,000 people, compared to the Central Queensland region of 220,000. That is because we have large towns close by like Gladstone and Emerald. And, if
you added the mining towns as well it is likely that we have an even larger rugby league fan base to draw on than the Cowboys have in their region.
Of course, bringing more than the odd NRL game to Rockhampton would require significant investment in our sporting facilities. But both the Federal and State Governments are proposing upgrading Victoria Park and Browne Park, respectively. Michelle Landry got $23 million to upgrade Victoria Park and those
works will start soon. The State Government has plans to invest $25 million at Browne Park.
More would need to be spent to build an NRL quality stadium but with Queensland set to host the Olympics in 2032 we should look at attracting some more investment so that the Games do not just leave a legacy in South East Queensland.
We have had a great decade of investment in Central Queensland, with the Yeppen Bruce Highway upgrades, Rookwood weir, the hospital carpark, the riverfront and lagoon developments, and much more. Our beef and coal industries are going gangbusters. An NRL would be a long term endeavour but it is something to aim for and put our great region on the map.