On a sunny Sunday afternoon in June 2003, the Newcastle Knights rained on the Brisbane Broncos parade in the first event to be held at their redeveloped home ground, Suncorp Stadium.
More than 46,000 fans were present to witness the rebirth of Queensland’s spiritual home of football but the Andrew Johns led Knights also wanted to share in the history of the occasion and beat the home team 32-22.
This Friday night, the two teams which had the honour of playing in that first game 10 years ago are back in what shapes as a crucial game for both of them leading up to the 2013 NRL finals series.
None of the players from 2003 will take the field but the then Broncos coach Wayne Bennett will be there, this time in charge of the visiting Knights. And the Knights coach that day, Michael Hagan, one of the behind-the-scenes heroes in Queensland eight straight Origin series wins will be behind the microphone calling the game for Newcastle fans back home.
In the decade that has passed, Suncorp Stadium has become a fortress not only for the Broncos but other home teams such as the Maroons, the Queensland Reds, the Wallabies and the Brisbane Roar.
Players from all codes talk about the value of home team support to the result and the experience of having the crowd as close as six metres away from the action.
On Friday night, the Broncos will play their 134th home game at Suncorp Stadium, representing 35% of the total number of games played here. But even more impressive is the number of fans who have attended those games – 4,361,462 – at the very healthy average of 32,792. All other NRL teams would kill for a 32,000 crowd for one game let alone to average it over a 10 year period.
The Broncos win / loss record also reinforces how much they love playing at home. Of the 133 games played to date, the Broncos have won 78 for just under a 60% winning record. Again, numbers most clubs can only dream about.
Suncorp Stadium General Manager, Alan Graham today reflected on the past 10 years.
He said the success of Suncorp Stadium was due in a large part to its ongoing popularity amongst fans, players and sporting associations.
“Our anchor tenants, the Broncos, the Reds and the Roar deserve a lot of the credit for building their brands and growing their fan bases to the point where they collectively account for the bulk of Stadium patrons.
“The number of events has grown from 20 in 2003 to more than double that number today. Hosting major events has had provided a huge economic boost to both the local Brisbane and wider state economy,” he said.
Mr Graham also praised the high acceptance in the use of public transport to events.
“An average of 84% of patrons have used public transport to attend Stadium events. Part of the attraction is the ‘travel free’ incentive with event tickets and the close proximity to transport infrastructure, the CBD and the Caxton St entertainment precinct. At the end of the day everyone is a winner,” he said.