18 Reasons to see Townsville’s NAB Challenge

A carnival of football will headline the return of Australia’s game this year as the 2014 NAB Challenge rolls into every state and territory with 18 games in 18 day.

Here’s 18 reasons why you should head to Townsville to see the Brisbane Lions take on the Gold Coast SUNS in their NAB Challenge match on Sunday February 23.

1. Leppa’s first Townsville foray

Sunday’s NAB Challenge will be the first time Justin Leppitsch controls the box for the Brisbane Lions in Queensland. With plenty of game style changes tipped, you won’t want to miss the chance to be right amongst the action.

2. AFL and community coming together

There are few things better than sitting under a shady cloth on the Tony Ireland Stadium hill and watching the footy. The regular season provides few opportunities to get back to grassroots, but the NAB Challenge is the perfect stage to get closer than usual to Queensland’s footy stars.

3. Charters Towers

While you’re in town to see some footy history being made, check out some gold rush history at Charters Towers. An hour and a half from Townsville, Charters Towers was the site of a 19th century gold rush and once the second-largest Queensland town.

4. See some rising stars

Everyone loves to say they saw a star before they were a star. In five years, when Archie Smith, Jack Martin and Jono Freeman are household names, you’ll be able to say you saw them when they were just cutting their teeth in the AFL in Townsvillw.

5. Townsville CBD

The brand-spanking new CBD is the best place for some retail therapy, with boutiques and specialty stores. There’s plenty to eat and if you’re keen to kick on after what will surely be a great display of footy, the night clubs of Flinders St East have you covered. And, you never know which players you might spot wandering those streets.

6. NAB Challenge has super rules

Pre-season matches are the perfect chance to test out some rule changes. One of the best is the super goal, giving the players nine points for a major kicked from outside 50. With some massive boots featuring in both Queensland sides, it will be raining nine-pointers at Tony Ireland Stadium. An added bonus is that each super goal sends $500 to a local junior club.

7. The Strand

One of the most well-known areas in Townsville, the Strand has everything you could want when you’re not at the footy. The seaside foreshore is home to some of the world’s most breathtaking beaches and if lying on the sand isn’t your thing, you can check some of the more adrenalin-junkie friendly options, like skydiving.

8. Watch some home-grown talent

North Queensland has produced some fine footy players and the NAB Challenge match is a chance for home fans to give them a rousing reception. Players like the SUNS’ Josh Hall, a Townsville boy, don’t get to play a true home game very often, so a great crowd will make it a lasting memory.

9. Crystal Creek

Townsville is only a hop, skip and a jump from Crystal Creek. Just a 45 minute drive will take you to the beautiful rainforest where you can swim, relax and soak in the secluded oasis.

10. Cure that footy withdrawal

One game not enough for you? Then, why not catch three? The Gold Coast SUNS Academy North Queensland and Central Queensland sides, in the first part of state team selection on Saturday morning, while the best of AFL Townsville will take on and Australian Defence Force team before the main event on Sunday.

11. Magnetic Island

Just 20 minutes on a ferry will take you out to Magnetic Island, where you can make some fishy friends, and see some sea life too. Once you’re done with snorkelling, check out some WWII history on the Forts Walk, and you’ll still have plenty of time to head back to the footy.

12. Grab a bite

Take some time to clear your head and mentally prepare yourself for the footy, by checking out some of Townsville’s fishing spots. The Burdekin has plenty of great estuaries for you to sit and wait for a nibble, while seeing whose patience is the first to break.

13. Sample the local brew

Commiserate or celebrate with a schooner or two of Townsville’s local beer, at the Townsville Brewery. Choose anything from Townsville Bitter to the Belgian wheat beer, and match it with a delectable pub meal.

14. Knock ‘em over at Cannon Park

Let the competitive spirit continue all weekend, with some bowling or laser skirmish at Cannon Park shopping centre. The glow in the dark bowling alley has a split level area for laser tag, so whether you’re stealthy or skilful, you’ll find something fun to do.

15. Take the train

Use the opportunity to take a different kind of transport. Townsville is connected to the Spirit of Queensland tilt train and Sunlander railway. Rather than catching a plane, of which there are 25,000 available seats weekly, branch out and see some of the scenery Queensland has to offer before catching a breathtaking footy spectacle.

16. Sunshine State rivalry

It’s not an official QClash, but there’ll be plenty of players keen to take some bragging rights into the season in the first Queensland derby of 2014.

17. Plenty of places to stay

Now, you’ve decided to get around the NAB Challenge match, you just have to pick a place to crash. Luckily, Townsville has more than 3,000 rooms across the city, catering to everyone from campers to those who want to live in the lap of luxury.

18. It’s footy in summer.

The cricket’s over, the tennis is done and dusted, it’s time for the footy to begin. February’s footy is full of hope, optimism and potential. It’s footy. In summer. In Townsville. Enough said.

2014 NAB Challenge – 18 games in 18 days

The Brisbane Lions vs. Gold Coast SUNS NAB Challenge game kicks off at 3:40pm on Sunday February 23 with tickets on sale through Ticket Shop www.ticketshop.com.au

To view the full NAB Challenge fixture please visit www.afl.com.au/fixture/nab-challenge

The 2014 NAB Challenge match in Townsville is supported by the Queensland Government through Tourism and Events Queensland as part of a growing calendar of sporting, cultural and regional events throughout the state.

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