Maroons mania hits north Queensland
QUEENSLAND'S State of Origin team described the response they received from the township of Proserpine during today's Fan Day as simply "outstanding".
"It's fantastic mate - we're very lucky to be here," front-rower Nate Myles said.
"Look, obviously we were expecting a good turnout, but nothing like this mate, this is fantastic and a little bit overwhelming for us," he said.
"We're very lucky to do what we do, but to get a chance to come out here to these areas that don't get to see us as much as the likes of Brisbane and places like that - it's outstanding, all in all."
Surrounded by a mob of Maroons fans, coach Mal Meninga was having a hard time moving forward through the crowd.
"Red Rooster's down this way," he joked, as his team pushed on towards the Proserpine Entertainment Centre for their luncheon.
Taking a short break from signing beer stubbies and shirts, Mr Meninga said the fan day was about ensuring the longevity of the game and supporting Queensland's regional areas.
"We understand that (Proserpine's) gone through a bit of hardship in recent times as well as with the cyclones and sugar prices at the moment and the amount of rain we've had up here - but we get a fair bit out of it too," he said.
"The players, once a year, realise how much they're adored and admired for what they do and know how much support they've got."
As well as boosting the spirits of the Maroons, Mr Meninga hopes the fan days will inspire the next generation of footballers.
"I imagine a lot of young kids in this region would be aspiring to be where the current playing group is, so it's all about meeting their heroes and showing they're normal human beings, and that they have the game of rugby league."
Looking to next Wednesday's Origin III decider in Suncorp Stadium, Mr Meninga said the Maroons were trying to relax and take their minds off the game.
"So that's what we were doing today, is having a bit of fun and enjoying being part of it all."