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.”
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.