Legends of League bring massive crowds to Bowen
RUGBY LEAGUE: One of the biggest crowds ever seen for a Whitsunday footy match of any kind turned out to Denison Park in Bowen last night for the Legends of League.
Organisers estimated that up to 3000 people attended throughout the full day event.
Crowds were treated to local junior matches as well as the Brahmans A-grade and Reserve matches against Moranbah but the main event were the legends.
Billed as the Australian All Stars against the Whitsunday All Stars, both past NRL legends including Petero Civoniceva and Scott Prince and former local greats lined up to take part in a light-hearted match that featured players as referees, ball boys streaming away for tries and John Hopoate re-enacting his... incident.
Although the Australian side won the match in end in a back and forth try-fest, it was never about the score.
The games wrapped a week of events for the legends which included visits to Whitsunday schools, a sponsors bowls day, meets and greets and a cocktail function that were all aimed at raising some funds and putting some smiles on faces after Cyclone Debbie.
Civoniceva got the the biggest cheer of all the players on the night. A true rugby league legend, the prop played more than 300 NRL games as well as 33 games for Queensland in State of Origin and another 45 for Australia.
"Awesome," is how Civoniceva described the scene.
"This is what it's all about. Obviously there's been a lot of hardship with everything that happened during the cyclone but I think for us... it's that chance to come up and show our support to the community and raise some funds, it's wonderful to be part of it."
"The game has been so good to all of us. We've had great careers through rugby league and the most special thing about it is the community that supports the game so it's fantastic that although we've hung the boots up we get a chance to use rugby league as a platform to show our support."
Newcastle great Robbie O'Davis bagged some tries from fullback, Prince ran the show in the halves, Kevin Campion had some damaging runs and Nathan Blacklock was a crowd favourite with his runs down the wing.
International Legends of League organiser Troy Byers said they estimated that 2,500 people watched the legends match.
"It went very well considering there's been a fair bit of rain here the last couple of days. The turnout we've had and the amount of people here I think it's been magnificent for the Whitsunday community," he said.
"You see the players on the field with all the kids (after the game), it's what rugby league is all about. It's what these blokes are about and it's exactly what the community needs."
Mayor Andrew Willcox, born and bred in Bowen, said it was the most amount of people he had ever seen at the grounds.
"It's great to see after what we've been through, for the whole region to have a night like this," he said.
"The amount of people that have come from all parts of our region to come tonight, I just couldn't be happier."
The free event asked for a gold coin donation at the door with raffles at half-time and the players auctioning off their jerseys after the game with the proceeds going to Cyclone Debbie disaster relief.