If North Queensland skipper Johnathan Thurston lifts the NRL’s Provan-Summons trophy on Sunday, he’ll also be raising the hopes of an entire region.
In a time when the mining industry is diminishing, the city’s unemployment rate is the worst in Queensland, and the continuing drought has spread to a record 80 per cent of the state, the area is in dire need of some good news.
And while a grand final victory over big-city cousins Brisbane won’t be a solution, Cowboys great Brent Tate says the team would be bringing home more than a heavy souvenir in a bare trophy cabinet.
“Look, there’s no villains for us Queenslanders this week,” Tate told AAP.
“The club and the people of the north, they need some hope. They need some happiness up here.
“It’s been some pretty difficult times, so yeah, it’d mean a bit more than a premiership up here.”
The city’s women’s basketball team, the Townsville Fire, brought some sorely-needed joy to their locals when they took out their inaugural championship earlier this year.
But the deputy mayor of Townsville, Vern Veitch, says an NRL title would be the city’s biggest sporting achievement in his 30 years in the council.
“It certainly will be,” he said.
“And most importantly, it’ll really inject a positive attitude into everyone in the city, even those that don’t follow rugby league specifically.
“Given everything that we’re going through, to have some good news, the hype that it’s creating… everyone’s just really pleased to have a team so successful.
“We’re punching above our weight, and that gives everyone a good feeling.”
Cowboys fan Meaghan, who was at the club’s open training session with her family on Tuesday, has seen firsthand how hard life can be when struggling to land a job.
Townsville’s current 9.4 per cent unemployment rate is far above the national 6.3 per cent and is the highest in Queensland.
“We’ve had friends and family have to move out of houses because of employment issues,” she said.
“So yeah, it has been a bit of a tough time – the drought’s affected everyone.
“Having something exciting like this will do wonders for the town.”
Cowboys co-captain Matt Scott said more needed to be done to help farmers in the state’s west.
“There have been some terrible stories about suicide and how hard people are doing it,” he said.
“I don’t think everyone fully understands how tough it can be in a drought.
“It’s hard to say what a premiership will do to change that, it’s more about what other help they need than what this can do.”
But, for a moment at least, those issues can dissipate with the raising of the trophy on podium on Sunday.
“Every club wants to win a premiership so I don’t need to talk about how much that means, but all the country areas are looking for a bit of good news at the moment,” coach Paul Green said.
“A bit of good news would make everyone feel a bit better.”