Former Queensland Maroons Origin star Johnathan Thurston took part in a goodwill tour last week to help raise spirits in regional Queensland.
Touring as part of his role with his Johnathan Thurston Academy, the rugby league great proved a popular visitor in the town of Quilpie.
Quilpie – which is also home to Ipswich Jets great and 2020 coach Keiron Lander – has been a strong rugby league town for many years, but in recent times has not been able to field a senior team in the local Western League competition.
However, they have still been able to showcase their state pride and rugby league support, which was highlighted by they fact they provided the “Q” in the recent XXXX Queenslander can collection series.
In fantastic news, the juniors have continued to survive thanks to the efforts of WRL secretary and president of Quilpie Senior Rugby League Sally Challenor, Kerri Vagg and other dedicated volunteers in the region.
During the past couple of years, their grounds have deteriorated as a result of numerous problems including the drought.
As they had such little water available to use, the fields got to such a state that they were unable to play on them this year.
But due to the efforts of Challenor and Vagg, who worked alongside local counsellor Bruce Paulsen and QRL government relations officer Arthur Eustace Earle; they were successful in applying for a grant from the NRL which along with a QRL Facility Grant, meant work could start on upgrading the fields.
A new irrigation system was installed, the local water treated and new turf laid.
This has transformed the once barren surface into an oasis in the middle of one of the Outback’s worst effected drought areas.
The local council organised for Thurston to attend the area recently and in amongst his activities over the two days, he attended a session with the local juniors much to their delight.
He also took part in a Q&A session with the players and parents.
Afterwards, he officially re-opened the sports grounds, with the opening also attended by Chairman of the QRL Central Region Danny McGuire.
The field is now ready for the current cricket season and includes a new cricket pitch, but most importantly these young Magpies will have their home fields again for 2020.