Well, that was $8.3 million well spent.
When Queensland Prime Minister Annastacia Palaszczuk declared that the mountain of public money handed over to secure Origin I for Townsville would be ‘value for money’, even her biggest critics could hardly disagree.
Back-to-back home games for the Maroons to kick off the three-game run, 27,500 one-eyed North Queenslanders foaming in the crowded stands, and star five-eighth Cameron Munster passed fit, what could go wrong?
Just about everything, it turned out.
It is often said in sports reports that ‘the score did not reflect the match’.
This one did: 50-6 was a perfect reflection of the game. NSW didn’t just beat the Maroons. They destroyed them.
NSW flogged Queensland 50-6 in a one-sided affair for 30,000 in Townsville
Channel Nine pushed 13 commentators into the stadium, excluding Alfie Langer who was brought in for a guest appearance
In his pre-game introduction, Channel 9 presenter James Bracey predicted that this would be “one of the closest Origin matches we’ve seen”, and he was right.
This was an exciting match, until the moment that blues center Tom Trbojevic got off the bus.
While his brother Jake played in the NSW back row, there were two Trbojevics on the field. With the amount of ground Tom covered, it seemed like there were many more.
Tommy Turbo and his center partner Latrell Mitchell played with the Maroons after a flawless team performance by the rest of the Blues.
On the other side of the field, the Queenslanders were unable to win a battle.
In the week leading up to the match, much was said about the effect the huge crowd in North Queensland would have on the Maroons.
The only effect they had was in the 14th minute when they made so much noise that Munster could no longer hear the referee call ‘six’ and kicked the ball to death.
It was one of the few scoring opportunities the Maroons had in all games and from then on, the raging Blues effectively silenced the crowd.
What had once become the biggest party in Townsville’s history became as much fun as flat beer and old sausage rolls for locals.
The writing was on the wall early in the first half when Queensland forward Christian Welch was headbutted. Welch spent more time in Tradie’s deodorant ads that appeared on TV every few minutes than on the field.
Not that Welch or any other Queenslander would have been able to stop the Blues’ attack. They were just as good.
With half an hour to go and the NSW score ticking like a poker machine at Manly Leagues Club, it was almost painful to listen to Cameron Smith, former Queensland captain, who had turned 19, trying to say something positive about the Maroons. .
it was almost painful to listen to Cameron Smith, former Queensland captain turning nine, trying to say something positive about the Maroons
The writing was on the wall early in the first half when Queensland forward Christian Welch (left, after the game) was headbutted off the field.
When he reached for the old chestnut, “they’re just playing for pride now,” you knew he’d be clueless. Just like his old team.
But speaking of Channel Nine, could they have squeezed more commentators into the stadium?
Obviously not, as they left Sam Thaiday outside for what would supposedly be regular updates on the riotous celebrations going on in the streets.
After a few lukewarm reports, they happily invoked the line of mercy and stopped crossing over to him.
No doubt, like everyone else, he went to the nearest bar to drown his sorrows.
Including Sam, the number of commentators was 13, excluding Alfie Langer who was brought in for a guest appearance, meaning that if the Maroons got lost on their way to the stadium, Nine could have drafted their own team instead.
Who knows, they could have done better. JT certainly looked fit enough to put on a jersey and run into the paddock. Alfie, not so much.
And what about all that talk about Gus Gould and Fatty Vautin being dropped on the couch and left in the studio?
Halfback Nathan Cleary (pictured) also suffered a beating, splitting his head open in the 20th minute, but the playmaker bravely remained on the field until the 36th minute when he was sent to the blood box by match referees
There they were at the game, just as they’ve been alive longer than the Blues’ backline has been alive – though you’d have missed Fatty if you’d blinked, and Gus looked like he’d rather be somewhere else than in a stadium full of Queenslanders.
“When we played in Brisbane I always told my players it would be fine as long as they didn’t jump the fence,” he said, before starting his traditional pre-match monologue about courage and insecurity, ending with a quote from that classic of literature, Game of Thrones.
‘Do I deserve to be here? How will it be? Will I be good enough?’ he said in what was supposed to be an insight into what the players might be thinking at the time, but it could also be a mantra for the Nine commentary team that night.
Perhaps more interesting was an insight into what Queensland treasurer Cameron Dick was thinking full-time.
Asked by the media about the truckload of hard-earned taxpayers he and Annastacia had turned over to the NRL to bring the game to Townsville, he defiantly replied: ‘Every cent we spent is a cent well spent for Queensland’.
Their laughter allows Tom Trbojevic, Latrell Mitchell and the rest of the Blues to disagree.
Debutant Brian To’o dives for the Blues and scores his second try of the game
The Blues celebrate after scoring a try in the corner in the first half of the original game