Townsville rises for its first Origin

·2-min read

"Queenslander, Queenslander, Queenslander!"

It was the call of 27,533 fans that fell on deaf ears as the Maroons slumped to a record 50-6 State of Origin loss to NSW.

Swathes of fans, all donning the colour that identifies their allegiance, came to witness Origin's newest battleground - the first time rugby league's showpiece had been held in a regional city.

With horns, wigs, rallying calls and even wet cement illustrating ''QLD"; Townsville's Origin embrace was well and truly there, but the home team fell well short of expectations.

Blues hooker Damien Cook said this week he saw Townsville as a neutral venue, but the sea of Maroon that flowed from the 'Caxton Street' of the North and crowd awaiting him surely changed his perspective.

Until kickoff, anyway.

The Blues were drowned with boos as they arrived at the stadium, proud and hostile locals doing their best to unnerve the visitors, reminding them they were now in enemy territory.

Outside the famous 'Mad Cow bar', a sole NSW fan copped it from passionate locals, as the cattle call of 'Queenslander' rung through Flinders Street.

How the tale of the night would turn for that man.

"It's never been like this before," a local restaurant owner said.

"Townsville has grown for its team, it's as wonderful as it is amazing."

As the gates were braced for opening, fans buzzed and vast lines curved around the stadium.

"This doesn't feel like any other NRL game," one fan said.

"See you inside," one father said to his kids splitting away to separate gates.

"How will you see us in the stadium, there's too many people!" the young lad quipped back.

Some brave Blues fans popped up in an ocean of Maroon but the home support was clearly overwhelming.

"Queensland forever," fans yelled as they rushed through the gates.

The boos then rang out as the Blues entered the field in darkness.

Bathed in light, Queensland entered the cauldron to begin series 2021.

But come the final whistle, NSW notched their largest win ever as Tom Trbojevic and Latrell Mitchell put Queensland to the sword.

Hopelessly outmatched in game one, the series now heads south to Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane where the Maroons will be hoping the strains of 'Queenslander' lifts them more than it did in Townsville.

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