Queensland’s State of Origin team received a disappointing welcome to a nearly empty airport as they landed in Townsville ahead of the series opener.
The team was greeted on Monday with a large banner reading ‘Go the Maroons’ and balloons past the arrival gate as they entered the airport.
But despite the decorations, the typical fanfare was noticeably absent, with just a handful of supporters waiting in the terminal to greet the players.
The New South Wales Blues arrived in a similar setting when they landed earlier on Monday to prepare for Wednesday night’s game.
The uneasy reception comes after Queensland Prime Minister Annastacia Palaszczuk successfully bid to move the game from Melbourne’s MCG to her state last month in light of Victoria’s latest Covid-19 outbreak.
The Queensland Maroons arrived at a flat reception as they landed in Townsville on Monday (pictured)
Amid the hasty change, Townsville has had little time to prepare for the event that Palaszczuk had declared would be “history in the making” after the game was rescheduled.
Now the city in northeastern Queensland, which has a population of around 178,000, is racing to prepare for a wave of football fans flocking to the region for the opening game of the 2021 State of Origin series.
Tents, additional entertainment, and a “Northern Caxton Street” are all part of Townsville’s blockbuster plans for the city’s inaugural State of Origin game.
Game One is expected to inject $7 million dollars into the local economy and a 10-day short notice has sent organizers into overdrive.
Match tickets sold out within 15 minutes as tens of thousands joined online queues while others lined up in front of ticket shops.
For those lucky enough to get tickets, their next obstacle was maneuvering into the saturated hotel market, prices marked and near-full capacity announced just days before the event.
Balloons and a banner were placed at the arrivals entrance to meet the players after the match was quickly moved to Queensland amid Victoria’s Covid outbreak
Townsville’s answer was the creation of ‘Tent City’, 100 tents transported from Gympie to give footy fans their own base south of the CBD to stay during Origin.
Since its launch last Friday afternoon, the makeshift property has received a number of bookings and more than 7,000 visits to the booking page, Townsville Enterprise said.
Fans staying on the temporary site will be provided with transportation to and from the game, 24-hour security and toilet facilities.
The City Council has also unveiled major plans to transform popular Flinders Street into the Caxton Street of the north.
Giant screens will be erected to cope with the plethora of bands and entertainment throughout the day.
Players walk into Townsville’s airport on Monday as the city races to prepare for a wave of fans
The Queensland team wore masks as they made their way through Townsville airport
Caxton Street is known for its game-day buzz in Brisbane and Townsville Mayor Jenny Hill says she believes the same can be done up north.
“We’re going to really ramp up the spirit of the street eat events we’ve had recently and continue it all along Flinders Street and through Central Park with roaming entertainers leading the way to the stadium.”
Flinders Street is expected to welcome more than 10,000 visitors on match day, while the city’s restaurants, bars and clubs are fully booked in preparation.
Live Origin live sites will also be set up for people to watch the game across the community.
Last week, some 2,000 extra seats were shipped from the Gold Coast and Sydney to increase the Queensland Country Bank’s stadium capacity to just 28,000.
Construction was completed on Monday and organizers are confident the temporary seats will provide uninterrupted viewing pleasure.
“We have a team right now that makes sure there are no lines of sight and we need to make sure every page offers the best viewing experience possible,” said stadium manager Tom Kimball.
‘Don’t worry, the seats that come there will be exceptional.
“As soon as we know that all those seats are free of restrictions and that they are ready, they will go on sale tomorrow (Tuesday).”
The players boarded buses to leave the airport as they prepare for Wednesday night’s series opener