Cowboys’ rousing Townsville NRL GF sendoff

Try telling North Queensland fans the Cowboys have been written off, ahead of Sunday’s NRL grand final against Melbourne.


A sea of supporters has given underdogs North Queensland a rousing farewell as they fly out to Sydney for the season decider.

Just getting to the airport was half the fun for the Cowboys.

Thousands lined the streets from Townsville’s CBD to the domestic terminal in a memorable send-off before their second grand final in three years.

But nothing could prepare the team for what was waiting at the airport.

Players were overwhelmed by well wishers in oversized yellow cowboy hats, a big band and a team of percussionists next to a pop-up North Queensland merchandise stall.

Yet the Cowboys reckoned it was business as usual.

“It has been a routine the last few weeks – it’s just that each week, a few more people turn up at the airport,” assistant coach David Fairleigh said.

The Cowboys’ unlikely grand-final surge could not have come soon enough for Townsville.

The regional centre has been enduring tough times since last year’s closure of the Yabulu nickel refinery.

Townsville has a worrying youth unemployment rate, jumping from 15.6 per cent in July 2016 to 22.2 per cent this July.

There is also a water shortage with the Ross River Dam below 20 per cent capacity.

Fairleigh said the Cowboys were happy to bring a bit of joy to the city.

“Seeing the spirit in the crowd and wishing us well, we love the support,” he said.

“We saw people all along the streets from the Cowboys Leagues Club (in the CBD) all along The Strand and out to the airport.

“But I am not that surprised that the team is that well supported.

“Now we are going to Sydney to get some work done.”