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5 days ago
Townsville is bracing for a rugby league party after the NRL overcame a beer rights brawl to confirm the city would host Saturday night's all-Queensland semifinal.
Brewers Lion Nathan - who make XXXX and own the pourage rights at Dairy Farmers Stadium - and Carlton United Breweries(CUB) - who sponsor the NRL - spent most of the day at loggerheads over the proposal to move the Brisbane-North Queensland game from Sydney's Aussie Stadium.
However, common sense eventually prevailed and the parties were able to smoke the peacepipe.
NRL chief executive David Gallop admitted the move was close to collapsing several times before middle ground was reached.
"When this was first suggested, and at various times in the last 48 hours, it appeared to be mission impossible," Gallop said.
"It has been an enormously complex matter and it simply could not have happened without the assistance of Aussie Stadium, our clubs and a range of individual companies and corporate partners.
"It also has to be remembered that this could not have happened without the Broncos forfeiting a neutral venue, and I want to extend our thanks to Bruno Cullen, Wayne Bennett and Gorden Tallis for the approach they have taken.
"While it is a decision that will please a great number of fans, it will also cause commercial partners and some other fans a deal of inconvenience, despite our many efforts to minimise that inconvenience.
"We very much appreciate their understanding."
Excited fans began lining up for tickets at Dairy Farmers Stadium in the early hours of Monday morning, only to be turned away because the switch had not been confirmed.
They returned on Monday night and were sleeping outside the ground in order to secure the hottest tickets in town.
"I'm very happy for the players, north Queensland rugby league fans and Cowboys fans," delighted chief executive Denis Keeffe said.
"It just proves the fact that rugby league is by far the most dominant sport and the biggest thing in our community in north Queensland."
Asked how fast the 25,000 tickets would go, Keeffe replied: "As fast as we can process them."
Accommodation was so scarce in Townsville the Broncos were still trying to find somewhere to stay late on Monday.
As the day wore on the early optimism and excitement gave way to fears a deal would not be reached as the brewing giants butted heads.
The stalemate brought back memories of the Broncos' clash with Lang Park management in the early 1990s over their sponsorship with Powers Brewing.
The altercation eventually led to Brisbane leaving XXXX-sponsored Lang Park for ANZ Stadium.
But sanity prevailed, sparing the NRL's blushes and prompting Gallop to warn a repeat was unlikely.
"The reaction to the move has been overwhelming and we have no doubt that this will be an incredible boost for the game in general," Gallop said.
"It is important though that people remember the change of venues is the result of a unique set of circumstances.
"It is not something that we could see happening again in future years and, given the complexities involved, I doubt that a similar set of circumstances will come around again."
Airlines were preparing to put on extra flights while there were estimates the game could generate $2 to $3 million for the city that weekend.
The excitment wasn't confined to north Queensland.
"I don't think there are any better supporters than those up in north Queensland, they just love their football so much," Brisbane forward Petero Civoniceva said.
"I don't think there would have been anything worse than playing in Sydney with a lot of empty seats.
"We know up there it's definitely going to be a sellout game.
"The boys really love playing up there and in front of a packed house it will be good form them and they're playing with a lot of confidence.
"To be honest, we just don't have any more chances.
"If we put another performance in like we did on the weekend and that's the end for us."
Cullen defended the club's decision to forego home ground advantage.
"If we lose I hope we don't see headlines like `the Broncos move backfires' because it's not going up there and winning, it's doing something for rugby league in Queensland," he said.