The Gold Coast Suns will play games in Cairns and Townsville from 2018 onwards, in a new deal announced on Wednesday by the Queensland Government.
The deal, which was struck by Tourism and Events Queensland, will see the Suns play for premiership points in Cairns in 2018 and for the first time in Townsville in 2019 or 2020.
“Bringing the Gold Coast SUNS up north is a big win for Queensland and it will be great to see Townsville hosting a premiership AFL game for the first time,” Tourism and Events Minister Kate Jones said.
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“Cairns and Townsville have an extremely strong AFL fan base and these games will help the code expand its reach in Queensland and give lovers of Aussie rules the chance to experience live AFL action in north Queensland.
“I am confident that these premiership games will attract sell-out crowds.”
Ms Jones said hosting AFL matches in north Queensland helped to expose some of the state’s greatest tourism attractions to new audiences.
“Securing these matches gives fans another reason to experience two of our most iconic destinations,” she said.
“This boost to visitor numbers will have a great impact on the local economy.
“Hosting these AFL premiership games also reinforces Queensland’s standing as a premier major sporting events destination.”
Gold Coast Suns Chair Tony Cochrane said the club was delighted to be deepening its connection with North Queensland.
“We know North Queensland fans are passionate about AFL, and with the support of both the AFL and Tourism and Events Queensland, we are thrilled they will see the team play first hand in a series of matches in the region,” Mr Cochrane said.
“As a club we have established significant support in Cairns and Townsville and enjoy playing our role in developing Australian Football throughout the region, which is also a key recruitment catchment for the Gold Coast Suns Talent Academy.
“In the past, through community camps, pre-season games and AFL premiership fixtures, the Gold Coast Suns has and will continue to support the growth of AFL in North Queensland.”
The 2018 JLT Community Series, the AFL’s pre-season matches, and Toyota AFL Premiership Season fixture details will be released in the coming weeks.