SUNDAY ,1 JULY
Cairns really is one of the great rugby league pilgrimage destinations. In recent years, the North Queensland city has developed into a hotspot for elite-level rugby league, hosting regular trial matches as well as NRL home and away games thanks to South Sydney. (Speaking of top-level talent, keep an eye out for former “bad boy” Todd Carney while you’re up here: the Goulburn product signed on with Queensland Cup side Northern Pride over the summer, as he chases an NRL lifeline following a couple of years in the wilderness.)
The district’s passion for the sport was rewarded with three fixtures across the 2017 Rugby League World Cup: a double-header featuring Scotland vs Tonga and Ireland up against Italy, as well as Scotland’s historic boilover draw against the underwhelming Samoans.
As well as the now-annual NRL game between Souths and the Cowboys, Barlow Park will also be hosting a pre-season trial match between the Cows and Wests Tigers this summer, ensuring two more tastes of NRL footy for the locals.
Cairns is a top spot for watching rugby league. Last year while tagging along with his better half who was in town for a weekend conference, your writer ended up at the local casino. After stressing about my lack of decent clobber (I’d only packed thongs), I was let in without a hassle and enjoyed a great night watching the Cowboys play the Titans on a giant screen, joined by hundreds of thong-and-shorts-wearing locals in the casino’s makeshift indoor grandstand-type auditorium.
Match: Rabbitohs vs Cowboys Location: Barlow Park, Qld Capacity: 18,000 Off the field: Plenty to do besides the footy. A scenic flight over any number of local bodies of water, or the Skyrail Gondola and Kuranda Train are the standouts.