Suns heading to Townsville for premiership points
TOWNSVILLE will host AFL matches for premiership points in either 2019 or 2020, as the Gold Coast Suns seek to extend their reach in North Queensland.
The Suns have played a match in Cairns for the past seven seasons and will continue that trend for an eighth consecutive season in 2018.
But in a deal struck with the state government, the Suns will play a match in Townsville by at least 2020.
Gold Coast chairman Tony Cochrane told the club's website the deal would allow the Suns to extend their fanbase in what has historically been rugby heartland.
"We know North Queensland fans are passionate about AFL, and with the support of both the AFL and Tourism and Events Queensland, we are thrilled they will see the team play first hand in a series of matches in the region," Cochrane said.
"As a club we have established significant support in Cairns and Townsville and enjoy playing our role in developing Australian football throughout the region, which is also a key recruitment catchment for the Gold Coast SUNS Talent Academy.
"In the past, through community camps, pre-season games and AFL premiership fixtures, the Gold Coast SUNS has and will continue to support the growth of AFL in North Queensland."
Townsville - Australia's largest city north of the Sunshine Coast - has a population that nears 200,000.
The city has a rich history of sporting culture, home to the North Queensland Cowboys, the 2016 NRL premiers.
Townsville mayor Jenny Hill said she was thrilled AFL was coming to the tropics.
"In Townsville we already have an impressive track record for our capacity to stage big events and this will be another great offering for the city and the North Queensland region," Hill said.
"We have the Cowboys, the Fire, V8s, next year we will have the Commonwealth Games, and the Gold Coast Suns AFL Game will add to the breadth of our national sporting events.
"There is no doubt we can package our tourism products around this national sporting event that will appeal to all visitors for the match."