How the Sunshine State saved footy
Forget The Sunshine State, Queensland is now the national sport state with both major football codes - the NRL and AFL - setting up camp north of the border to save their seasons.
The alarming spike in coronavirus cases in Victoria has forced the NRL's Melbourne Storm and six AFL clubs to pack their bags and move to Queensland for the foreseeable future.
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COVID-19 protocols surrounding each club prohibits local fans from interacting with their favourite players and coaches in public, however there are plans in place to increase engagement once their quarantine period ends.
However, supporters are able to watch games they never believed would be played in Queensland.
The Storm announced on Wednesday their three upcoming "home games" will now be played at the Sunshine Coast Stadium - against the Titans, Knights and Bulldogs.
For the AFL, the move north has been more than an opportunity to promote the game in Queensland.
THE STATE THAT SAVED THE GAME
AFL boss Gillon McLachlan admits if it wasn't for Queensland, the competition would have struggled to continue.
"The Queensland Government have been unbelievable," McLachlan said.
"It's fair to say, it wouldn't have been impossible but it would have been much more difficult to get this season away without their support.
"It wouldn't have been impossible but it's certainly made it a lot easier.
"Premier Palaszczuk and all her ministers have effectively put the health and safety of Queenslanders first but we've been able to work with them on this arrangement that I think is great for Queensland.
"We're very thankful."
He also revealed plans were in place to increase engagement with local fans while each club settles into their new homes.
"(Fans can't interact with the clubs) while they're in quarantine," he said.
"We're working on how to have a level of engagement with the fans that doesn't impact the health and safety of everyone."
HOME AWAY FROM HOME
Players and coaches have had "nothing but praise" for their accommodation and facilities while on the Sunshine or Gold Coasts.
Both codes have allowed families to travel with the players, with some teams likely to be homeless for up to three months.
Melbourne Storm and Queensland Origin forward Christian Welch said it was a huge benefit to players' mental health to have their partners and kids with them in camp.
"We've all settled in quite well," Welch said.
"We're very grateful for the NRL support and allowing our families to come up here.
"I know the guys really enjoy that.
"It's really good for them mentally to have their partners and their kids around them.
"We're lucky to be at a great resort here on the Sunshine Coast.
"It's beautiful weather and we're lucky to still be playing NRL."
The six AFL clubs arrived in Queensland earlier this week and North Melbourne assistant coach Heath Scotland said they were still getting used to their surroundings.
"It's quite a unique situation," Scotland said.
"The boys have been able to handle it well.
"They're quite a resilient group to adapt through this whole period.
"We're getting used to the new surroundings and sharing accommodation areas with other clubs and working out training logistics."
FOOTY INJECTION FOR QLD
And the flow-on effect for Queensland footy is immeasurable.
AFLQ boss Dean Warren said already the number of junior participation was higher than the period before lockdown.
"Already we're seeing an increase in team nominations for junior football around southeast Queensland compared to the period before we shut down," Warren said.
"It's a testament to the passion and resilience of our volunteers and I couldn't be prouder."
Meanwhile, Brisbane's greatest ever AFL coach Leigh Matthews has welcomed the unprecedented move.
"It's a bit like a dripping tap," Matthews said.
"All of a sudden the Lions are going great, the Suns are going pretty good so that's a good thing for AFL in Queensland.
"And now we have half a dozen Melbourne clubs coming up here to play for the next few weeks so it's all going to be helpful to the promotion of the sport."
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Originally published as How the Sunshine State saved footy