It's not all about the main game,

"So, you're a footy fan hey? Love your Broncos? Travel to Suncorp every fortnight? Excellent, you're halfway there. All you have to do is keep this Sunday afternoon free, I'm coming to pick you up and we're going to watch a game of footy!"

"But the Broncos are playing in Sydney this weekend..."

When I sit back and realise how I've changed the lives of a few of my close mates throughout the course of 2004, I feel a glowing sense of pride. One extra "QUEENSLAND CUP MEDIA PASS" was sent to me in February, and I'd like to think I have made the most of it. While I could have easily given it away to any of my mates who are just as serious about their national and local footy as me, I made it my mission to take at least 4 different people to their first ever Queensland Cup games sometime throughout the season... and 3 of those have since attended matches as paying spectators.

I find it hard to believe it was only a few years ago when I thought the National Rugby League was the be-all and end-all of football. I knew there was a Queensland Cup competition, and sometimes checked the ladder and results with a vague interest, but I now get just as excited about my team in the local comp as I do about the Broncos. I'd like to take this opportunity to tell you all why I think local league is just as exciting and enjoyable as watching the big men in the big time.

Firstly, because I know we are all so stingy when it comes to our money, the level of cash needed to enjoy an arvo at any Queensland Cup venue is remarkably small. Adult admission to any ground is always under $8, parking is usually free (if not, park down the street and walk the 2 minutes), the can bar operates at just $2.50 a pop and the burgers are about the same. Where else could you see a game of decent football, drink two beers and eat two burgers for under $20? That money will usually only get you to the nosebleed section of some major stadium.

The quality of football on display is, as many of you already know, absolutely top-notch. These guys are competing against each other for positions in the NRL, and they play like they really mean it! Big hits, biffs and broken noses and jaws are just a part of another day at the park. The intensity level of these matches when you are sitting just metres away is really quite incredible, and gives you an entirely different view of the game itself.

One of the best aspects of supporting your local competition is how much you know before the average footy fan reads something in the paper. Seeing young guns amaze the fans and commentators with their NRL debut is no longer surprising. This year alone, I began the season by watching names like Craig Frawley, Barry Berrigan, David Stagg, Gary Tupou and Neville Costigan impress for the Toowoomba Clydesdales. Not even nine months later, they are household names for most people in this great city.

Only 12 months have passed since I was watching Shane Tronc, Luke O'Donnell and Matt King carve up the opposition at a park 5 minutes away from my house.

I will never truly understand how people can describe themselves as fans of rugby league when they never make the effort to participate in the local competition. Despite all of the personal benefits one recieves from the experience (spending an afternoon in beautiful weather watching a great game for a very low price), the game itself is helped by the extra attendance.

Aside from simply hoping for a good score on my article, I have used my chance at the pinnacle of the F7's game to push the agenda for grassroots league. Like the International circuit, it is an area which needs extra support to continue and prosper, and if this article has encouraged just one more person to travel to the local park on a Sunday sometime next year, my work here will be fulfilled.

"Hey Mick! You keen to head to the Queensland Cup Grand Final at Suncorp this weekend? I've got a whole bunch of us together for it..."

"Count me in, mate. I've got the feeling we could be in for an absolute blockbuster!"

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