Well, that was $8.3 million well spent.
When Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk declared that the mountain of public funds handed over to secure Origin I for Townsville would be ‘value for money’ even her biggest critics found it hard to disagree.
Back-to-back home games for the Maroons to start the three-match series, 27,500 one-eyed North Queenslanders frothing at the mouth in the jam-packed stands, and star five-eighth Cameron Munster passed fit, what could possibly go wrong?
Just about everything, as it turned out.
It’s often said in sport reports that ‘the score didn’t reflect the game’.
This one did: 50-6 was a perfect reflection of the game. NSW didn’t just beat the Maroons. They annihilated them.
NSW flogged Queensland 50-6 in a one-sided affair in front of 30,000 at Townsville
Channel Nine squeezed 13 commentators into the stadium, not including Alfie Langer who was pulled in for a guest appearance
In his pre-game introduction Channel 9 host James Bracey predicted that this would be ‘one of the closest Origin contests we’ve seen’, and he was right.
This was a close contest, right up until the moment Blues’ centre Tom Trbojevic got off the bus.
With his brother Jake playing in the NSW backrow there were two Trbojevics on the field. With the amount of ground Tom covered, it looked like there were a lot more.
Tommy Turbo and his centre partner Latrell Mitchell toyed with the Maroons on the back of a faultless team effort from the rest of the Blues.
On the other side of the field the Queenslanders couldn’t win a trick.
In the week leading up to the game much was made about the effect the huge North Queensland crowd would have on the Maroons.
The only effect they had was in the 14th minute when they were making so much noise that Munster couldn’t hear the referee call ‘six again’ and kicked the ball dead.
It was one of the few scoring chances the Maroons had all match and from then on, the rampaging Blues effectively shut the crowd up.
What had shaped up as being the biggest party in Townsville’s history ended up about as much fun for the locals as flat beer and stale sausage rolls.
The writing was on the wall early in the first half when Queensland’s key forward Christian Welch was forced off with a head knock. Welch spent more time in the Tradie deodorant ads that popped up on TV every couple of minutes than he did on the field.
Not that Welch or any other Queenslander would have been able to stem the Blues’ onslaught. They were just that good.
With half an hour to go and the NSW score ticking over like a poker machine at Manly Leagues Club, it was almost painful to listen to former Queensland captain-turned-Nine commentator Cameron Smith trying to say something positive about the Maroons.
it was almost painful to listen to former Queensland captain-turned-Nine commentator Cameron Smith trying to say something positive about the Maroons
The writing was on the wall early in the first half when Queensland’s key forward Christian Welch (left, after the game) was forced off with a head knock
When he reached for the old chestnut, ‘they’re just playing for pride now’, you knew he’d totally run out of ideas. Much like his old team.
But speaking of Channel Nine, could they have squeezed more commentators into the stadium?
Obviously not, because they left Sam Thaiday outside for what were supposed to be regular updates of the riotous celebrations going on in the streets.
After a couple of tepid reports, they thankfully invoked the mercy rule and stopped crossing to him.
No doubt he headed to the nearest bar to drown his sorrows like everyone else.
Counting Sam, the commentator headcount was 13, not including Alfie Langer who was pulled in for a guest appearance, which meant that if the Maroons had got lost on the way to the stadium, Nine could have fielded a team of their own instead.
Who knows, they might have done better. JT certainly looked fit enough to pull on a jersey and run out onto the paddock. Alfie, not so much.
And what about all that talk of Gus Gould and Fatty Vautin being dropped to the bench and left behind in the studio?
Halfback Nathan Cleary (pictured) also copped a battering, splitting his head open in the 20th minute, but the playmaker bravely stayed on the field until the 36th minute when he was sent to the blood bin by match referees
There they were at the game, just as they have been for longer than any of the Blues’ backline has been alive – although you would have missed Fatty if you blinked, and Gus looked like he’d rather be anywhere but in a stadium full of Queenslanders.
‘I always used to tell my players when we played in Brisbane they as long as they didn’t jump the fence we’d be okay,’ he said, before launching into his traditional pre-match soliloquy about bravery and insecurity, ending with a quotation from that classic of literature, Game of Thrones.
‘Do I deserve to be here? What will it be like? Will I be good enough?’ he said in what was supposed to be an insight into what the players might have been thinking at that time but could also have been a mantra for the Nine commentary team on the night.
More interesting might have been an insight into what Queensland treasurer Cameron Dick was thinking at fulltime.
Questioned by the media about the truckload of taxpayer’s hard-earned that he and Annastacia had handed over to the NRL to bring the game to Townsville he answered defiantly, ‘Every cent we’ve spent is a cent well spent for Queensland’.
Through their laughter Tom Trbojevic, Latrell Mitchell and the rest of the Blues might disagree.
Debutant Brian To’o dives over for the Blues, scoring his second try of the match
The Blues celebrate after scoring a try in the corner in the first half of the origin match