MA­ROON MA­NIA

Townsville Bulletin - - FRONT PAGE - TODD BA­LYM

COWBOYS and Queens­land leg­end Johnathan Thurston is mobbed by ador­ing Ma­roons fans in Proser­pine yesterday. The town’s main street was flooded with footy fans ea­ger to greet their State of Ori­gin he­roes dur­ing a fan day.

THE Ma­roons hailed their Proser­pine fan day the great­est in history af­ter a crowd of more than 7000 peo­ple brought the town to a grind­ing halt as fans mobbed their he­roes in the street.

Queens­land’s fourth re­gional fan day will be talked about for years as play­ers were stopped from the mo­ment they stepped onto Main St for the 500m walk to the en­ter­tain­ment cen­tre.

Ma­roons stars such as Johnathan Thurston, Greg Inglis and Sam Thai­day proved the most pop­u­lar as the 12 play­ers in at­ten­dance posed for photos and signed au­to­graphs for at least two hours be­fore a lun­cheon and then a kids’ coach­ing clinic.

“Out of all the fan days we’ve had, that crowd we saw out there to­day was the big­gest crowd we have ever, ever seen at fan day,” QRL chair­man Peter Bet­ros said.

“Ev­ery year, we sit down with Mal and the lead­ers of the team and work out where we are go­ing to take the State of Ori­gin team.

“Ev­ery year, we look for a re­gional area, the heart­land of rugby league and an area that is prob­a­bly do­ing it a lit­tle bit tough.

“Ev­ery year, we have a list that is very, very long and ev­ery year, it is hard to make the choice but we’re cer­tainly not sorry we made the choice of Proser­pine to come to to­day be­cause the re­cep­tion the play­ers re­ceived has been out­stand­ing.”

Inglis said get­ting out among the fans was a high­light of the Ma­roons’ prepa­ra­tion and helped ease the ten­sion as Queens­land pre- pares for a de­cider next week.

“It’s just great to have this sup­port right across the state,’’ Inglis said. New Ma­roon Dane Ga­gai was among the lo­cal favourites; he grew up an hour away in Mackay while his dad Ray was a lo­cal league leg­end whose photo still hangs in the pub.

“He is some­what of a lo­cal lad re­ally, from Mackay which is not too far away,” Ma­roons coach Mal Meninga said.

“Dane has been part of the pro­gram for a num­ber of years now.

“He has been play­ing re­ally well for the New­cas­tle Knights and he de­serves to be in the footy side.”

Pic­tures: ADAM HEAD, GETTY IM­AGES

MOBBED: Johnathan Thurston was swamped by fans, along with Greg Inglis ( be­low left) and Dane Ga­gai ( be­low right) as more than 7000 peo­ple turned out to see the Ma­roons.

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