The North Queensland Cowboys will launch a bold new era with a blockbuster NRL clash against the Brisbane Broncos at the $250 million Townsville Stadium.
The North Queensland Cowboys will launch a bold new era with a blockbuster NRL clash against the Brisbane Broncos at the $250 million Townsville Stadium.

New stadium to open with blockbuster NRL derby

THE North Queensland Cowboys will launch a bold new era with a blockbuster Round 1 NRL clash against the Brisbane Broncos at the new $250 million Townsville Stadium next year.

The Courier-Mail can reveal the NRL will next week announce a mouth-watering Queensland derby has been scheduled to open the 2020 premiership season.

The Round 1 fixture will be played on Friday, March 13 at the new 25,000-seat stadium in Townsville's CBD.

It will be the first sports event hosted at the premier stadium and is expected to attract a sellout crowd.

Josh McGuire of the Cowboys is tackled by Payne Haas and Tevita Pangai of the Broncos in round 21 of the 2019 NRL season. Picture: Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images
Josh McGuire of the Cowboys is tackled by Payne Haas and Tevita Pangai of the Broncos in round 21 of the 2019 NRL season. Picture: Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images

The Cowboys and Broncos have generated an incredible rivalry over the past five seasons, dating back to North Queensland's incredible extra-time victory in the 2015 NRL grand final.

Four of the past 10 encounters between the Queensland rivals have been decided by one point and there have been four matches that entered extra-time.

The Cowboys had a poor 2019 season, finishing 14th with nine wins from 24 games, while the Broncos were thumped 58-0 in the first week of the finals by Parramatta.

But the NRL has decided to roll out one of its highest-rating games of the season to launch Townsville's new state-of-the-art facility.

The North Queensland Stadium in Townsville under construction. Picture: Alix Sweeney
The North Queensland Stadium in Townsville under construction. Picture: Alix Sweeney

The Cowboys have long wanted a new stadium to replace the dated 1300SMILES Stadium, which is a 25-minute drive from the Townsville CBD.

Club legend Johnathan Thurston famously used his speech following the 2015 NRL grand final to ignite calls for a new stadium in the region.

Thurston's wish was granted when former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull committed the necessary $100 million of federal government funding in 2016 and construction started in 2017.

A bronze statue of Thurston will be erected outside the stadium before the 2020 NRL season kicks off.

"It truly looks remarkable," Thurston said of the stadium.

"It's going to be great for Townsville and North Queensland and is something I'm extremely proud to have played a small part in getting here."

The Broncos are expected to play their first home game of the 2020 season at Suncorp Stadium in Round 2 the following weekend.

A bronze statue of Thurston will be erected outside the stadium before the 2020 NRL season kicks off.

"It truly looks remarkable," Thurston said of the stadium.

"It's going to be great for Townsville and North Queensland and is something I'm extremely proud to have played a small part in getting here."

The Broncos are expected to play their first home game of the 2020 season at Suncorp Stadium in Round 2 the following weekend.

New York Jets running back Valentine Holmes (39) and Tevaughn Campbell (35) during the Pre-season NFL game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the New York Jets on August 29, 2019. Picture: New York Jets/ Supplied
New York Jets running back Valentine Holmes (39) and Tevaughn Campbell (35) during the Pre-season NFL game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the New York Jets on August 29, 2019. Picture: New York Jets/ Supplied

 

Meanwhile the best fullback to lace the boots for the Cowboys has backed Valentine Holmes to shine if he returns home to Townsville.

Club legend Matty Bowen wants to see the NFL-convert in a Cowboys jersey and believes it could happen as early as next season.

The call from Bowen comes amid reports Holmes has already agreed in-principle to a deal at the Cowboys and met with coach Paul Green in New York.

"I think he will come home, I think everyone wants to see him come home," Bowen said.

"He was a local junior who played for Upper Ross before going to Ignatius Park. It would be nice to see him back home in Cowboys colours and not some Sydney club.

 

Valentine Holmes was used as punt returner in Jets v Saints NFL pre-season match at Metlife Stadium, New Jersey. Supplied
Valentine Holmes was used as punt returner in Jets v Saints NFL pre-season match at Metlife Stadium, New Jersey. Supplied

 

"I think he will (have some form), he has been training for NFL and he has put on a bit of weight so it might take him a couple of games to get back to where he was."

Holmes left the NRL at the peak of his powers following a dominant 2018 season with the Sharks, when he finished in the top five in the annual Dally M voting.

The Townsville product decided to chase his dream of playing in the NFL, via the International Player Pathway program. He was assigned to the New York Jets, but failed to make the 53-man roster, instead taking up a slot on the practice squad.

He has long been rumoured to make a return to the NRL, and the Cowboys have kept a hefty chunk of their salary cap aside in an effort to lure a player of Holmes' calibre to the club.

It is understood the Cowboys have made an approach to the former Maroons strike weapon, with a $3 million deal over three seasons.

If Holmes does return when he is expected to in January, the first glimpse Cowboys fans get will be during a pre-season trial against the Broncos at Cairns' Barlow Park.



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