Rugby league is well and truly and alive in regional Queensland, with Julia Creek hosting their annual City v Country fixture tomorrow (October 4) at Kev Bannah Oval.
The highly anticipated event will be a shining light for the Flinders Highway region who have endured both drought and devastating floods in recent times.
The QRL were able to secure funding from the Year of Outback Tourism Events Program during the Year of Outback Tourism 2019 and this funding will see NRL stars Paul Bowman and Matty Bowen visit the region; attending the event, as well as running a wide range of community workshops.
Growing up in Cairns, Bowen is a former Queensland representative who played for the Cowboys between 2001-2013, reaching a remarkable 270 games throughout his illustrations career.
Meanwhile, Bowman was a faithful servant to the Cowboys between 1995-2007, playing 203 games for the club as well as representing Queensland 12 times.
The Julia Creek region has endured plenty of hardship in recent times with both floods and drought crippling the area, with local properties suffering severe stock loss and damage throughout the challenging few years.
After growing up in the small town of Proserpine, before then attending St Brendan’s college in Yeppoon, Cowboys legend Paul Bowman knows just how crucial country rugby league is for the well-being of not only the game but for the local communities it helps bring together.
“Growing up in a small country town I know how important it is for the communities and particularly youth in those communities to see that there are genuine pathways available to kids through sport, and I know the positive impact sport and sporting heroes can have on kids,” Bowman said.
“I also can relate to how the Flinders Highway region must be feeling after the devastating floods earlier this year, having seen my home town of Proserpine and my new home town of Townsville impacted in recent years by severe weather events.
“I hope that mine and North Queensland legend Matty Bowen’s presence can help in some small way to everyone in the area affected.”
In true country spirit, the community has continued to rally together throughout both the good and bad times to keep their beloved community going strong.
Local Sport and Recreation Officer Kalan Lococo from the McKinlay Shire said that the addition of Bowman and Bowen would help attract those from neighbouring regions to come and travel to attend the event.
“With some funding that the QRL has received through the Outback Tourism Events program, we have got Paul Bowman and Matty Bowen locked in to visit and to come share their experiences in the game and be part of our event in community,” Mr Lococo said.
He believed that the event will help bring the community back together as they look to reconnect and have an enjoyable evening together after a challenging few years.
“I think that events like these provide a chance for people to come together and catch up with old friends, which they may not get a chance to do very often as they all live pretty busy lifestyles out here, ” Mr Lococo said.
“So, it certainly gives people a chance to come together and have a good weekend with friends and family.”
Despite the challenging times, Mr Lococo credited the unwavering support of local businesses that have enabled such a fantastic event to keep running.
“Local businesses are essential to these kind of events. It doesn’t matter if it’s this event or the camp draft or rodeo, without the support and sponsorship of local businesses, these events wouldn’t go ahead,” Mr Lococo said.
“They obviously contribute a lot of money to our small communities and its really good to see that even after the flood at the start of the year, they are still feeling the effects but everyone is pulling together to help support the community.”
The event will officially start with the juniors playing 4pm, before the netball at 6pm, and then finally the City v Country match kicking off at 8pm.
The bar and canteen will be running throughout the event and there will be plenty of activities for the kids - including a jumping castle and face painting.
The event will only be $5 for adults and a gold coin donation for those aged under 18 and all visitors are encouraged to stick around for the weekend with the local swim club also hosting their popular fundraiser ball on the Saturday night.
The event is the perfect advocate for just why country rugby league is so key for these remote communities who may only get the chance to play one game a year.
Having grown up in rural Queensland as a young boy, Bowman said he was keen to give back to the more remote regions and hopefully inspire the next generation to chase their dreams.
“I was very lucky when I was younger to see my rugby league heroes with Mal Meninga, Peter Jackson, Tonie Currie and local legend Eddie Muller attending our presentation day at Proserpine Junior Rugby League,” Bowman said.
“To this day I can still remember how great that was to see my idols and to hear their stories which made me want to aspire to reach the top level.
“If they could do it, why couldn’t I?”
The match will be live streamed on the Town v Country Facebook page.