I have been involved in rugby league for many years and two decades ago, I had the privilege of being the president of Tully.
A couple of weeks ago, they invited all previous presidents to view the community’s new multi-million dollar grandstand that was recently opened.
I didn't know what I was expecting, but this was a 'build it and they will come' moment... a mirage in the middle of rugby league heartland.
The grandstand is not much smaller than the Clive Berghofer Stadium in Toowoomba and matches everything Sunshine Coast Stadium has to offer.
Besides the state-of-the-art facilities that are standard at newer sports facilities, the volunteer-friendly canteen really impressed me, allowing volunteers to not miss a minute of the action, even when serving up the crowd favourites such as a pie or hot chips.
The stadium also has excellent conference facilities with state-of-the-art video conferencing equipment that has become a staple in this modern coronavirus world that we currently live in.
At the last census held in 2016, Tully’s population was around 3000 people and is the one of the major townships in the Cassowary Coast Regional Council, which spreads from Babinda in the north to Cardwell in the south - incorporating approximately 34,000 people.
To put things into perspective, both Toowoomba and Sunshine Coast catchments are much larger, hence why the comparison in infrastructure is mind-boggling.
Located between Cairns and Townsville, Tully is perfectly placed for visitors to enjoy this facility and other tourist destinations, such as the beautiful Great Barrier Reef beaches like Mission Beach, Hinchinbrook and Dunk Islands.
Cassowary Coast deputy mayor and former Tully Tigers president Barry Barnes believes the facility will entice major games, such as future Intrust Super Cup clashes.
"The council is committed to further improving the surrounds with upgrade of the fields and other structures to attract participants," Barnes said.
“The facility was badly in need after the 90-year-old grandstand was condemned a number of years ago and the state and federal governments agreed.
It's a mirage in the middle of rugby league heartland.Andrew O'Brien
Together with four sporting bodies - Tully Senior and Junior Rugby League, Tully Touch Association and the local show society committee - we achieved a building all people in Queensland can be proud of.”
Tully Tigers president Anthony Emmi said the new facilities would help attract participants in all sports.
"Tully and surrounds are rugby league mad and this 'field of dreams' facility will be the pride and joy of our club and the community as a whole," Emmi said.
“[The upgrade] has made our game more attractive to entice more participation and especially more female competitors, not to mention the appeal to volunteers to be involved.
"From this; ultimately, our sponsor relationships will grow and grow.”