Townsville is not the first name that springs to mind when you think of Australia’s best-known cities, not even when you limit your search to those associated with rugby. It is not on the mental map of Argentines, and it is difficult to find someone who has passed through it … or who lives there (but we got it).
As an example, the review of the Los Pumas matches in that country shows that they were there only once, as part of the 1983 tour. But the pandemic put it on the map, being one of the few Australian cities that were not affected by the coronavirus. A) Yes, the unofficial capital of North Queensland became an ideal destination to receive events that could not be held elsewhere.
So this weekend it will host a historic double day of the Rugby Championship (the entire Rugby Championship is available on Star +), receiving an exposure that can end up changing the status of “hidden gem”.
That is Townsville, in short: a city of around 200 thousand inhabitants, thriving, industrial and tourist at the same time, but that continues to live at the rhythm of the people, where everyone knows each other and prioritizes kindness and good treatment. That was very clear to us when it came to reliving the Puma victory there, 38 years ago, but it is a story that deserves to be told separately.
At 1,300 kilometers from Brisbane, the strategic location of Townsville, on the north coast of the country, facing the Pacific, Southeast Asia and China, means that it has great port activity and also a strong presence of the different Australian armed forces.
Economic activity is highly diversified, with zinc, copper and nickel refineries, sugar production and live cattle. The state of Queensland leads the way in Australian meat production and in recent years Townsville has become the main export port.
So far, the coldest data, the economic ones. But with a warm and pleasant climate, with average temperatures between 20 and 30 degrees, located in front of the Great Barrier Reef, they also make it a tourist destination, mainly to enjoy its beaches and nature reserves and to go diving excursions, kayaking or scenic flights. Who wants to investigate a little more, look for names like The Strand, Riverway, Reef HQ, Castle Hill or Magnetic Island, to fall in love with the place through its incredible images.
Illustrious citizens? Probably the best known, globally, is Julian Assange, the head of WikiLeaks. As for the sport, the names of the golfer Greg Norman, once world number one, and going to rugby, Luke McLean, who had a great career playing for the Italian national team, stand out.
Precisely, in terms of sport, rugby, but in its league version, it is king at the hands of the North Queensland Cowboys. When the local team plays, especially in decisive instances, the city literally dresses in its colors, and it is not uncommon to see people going to work with their shirts on.
But rugby union also has its followers and has contributed several Wallabies in its history; the most recent and well-known, Peter Grigg, who faced Los Pumas in 1983 and played RWC 1987, and Sam Scott Young in the 90s.
Also, there is room for others like cricket and basketball, and of course, countless options for those who love the great outdoors, such as rowing, kite surfing, climbing, trekking … and the list goes on.
And another great attraction is that the city has first class health and education services and a very varied cultural and gastronomic activity, a reflection of the immigrant heritage from different parts of the world, such as Asia and the Pacific, but also a strong Greek and European presence. Italian.
AN ARGENTINE LOOK
Are there Argentines in Townsville? Few, very few. Most of them, incidentally, with scholarships or as temporary workers. Sonia, on the other hand, has lived in the city for 10 years and tells us about her experience.
Married to Paul, born and raised in the city, and with two children, Sonia misses friends and family, like any immigrant. And also more mundane things … like alfajores and real barbecue, wood or charcoal! But you are more than happy with your choice to live in a place that values friendliness and quiet.
“We all know each other and everything is close; a while ago we returned home and met the Springboks on the road, who had gone out for a walk, here everything is so quiet,” says Sonia smiling. “Here people are very friendly; it is something cultural, they are educated to be kind and helpful.”
At first, such kindness could even be shocking. “In each business, the employee asks you how it went or if you have a good plan for the day, and the truth is, it didn’t make sense,” he tells us. “Until someone made me understand that it could be a way to accompany that person to better spend their working hours, an act of solidarity in small gestures; here there are constantly events to help those who need it.”
Sonia also says that a lot of attention is paid to the environment: “There is awareness about the impact of garbage, days of voluntary collective cleaning are organized in beaches and parks.”
And, of course, the geography and the climate invite you to enjoy. In Sonia’s words: “The weather is now incredible, average 25 degrees Celsius, a beautiful spring with a cool breeze at night.”
Sure, everyone is enjoying it now because they know that a hot summer with constant rain will come later. “Heat, mosquitoes, cyclones and humidity are something you have to learn to deal with,” he confesses.
Sonia and Paul, along with their two children, will be at Queensland Country Bank Stadium on Saturday, like many of the Townsville residents, as it will be the first time in history for the Wallabies to play a test in the city.
Paul will be one of many who, 38 years later, will see Los Pumas again in Townsville. He was a teenager in 1983 and as a rugby player and fan, he was at the Hugh Street Stadium, when with 18 points from Hugo Porta, Argentina took a 22-12 victory over Queensland Country.
This weekend, at North Queensland Stadium, he will be wearing a shirt that an old friend, an Australian Capital Territory (ACT, now the Brumbies) player received from Patricio Noriega in 1995.
From 1983 to 2021, through 1995, Paul, an Argentine indirectly (it was in Buenos Aires, visiting friends, when he met Sonia), will connect different generations of Pumas with a country in which rugby is a national passion.