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Imran Ali gets a taste of the electric atmosphere at Suncorp Stadium.
Suncorp Stadium is among a few footy venues in this part of the globe that make you want to come back.
The gigantic structure owned by the Queensland Government seats 52,500 although it feels as though the rectangular arena can accommodate far more than that number for big games.
With a narrow width and sloping stands that rise from right alongside the ground, it’s a stadium designed for football. Rugby fans who have tired of the oval-shaped restrictions that come with so many of the hybrid grounds in this part of the world owe themselves a trip to Suncorp.
I got a taste of its special atmosphere during the All Blacks v Wallabies clash three weeks ago.
I can tell you it was far from being a “dead rubber” — it was a titanic battle of brute strength on the field and an equal measure of lung power in the stands from supporters draped in a sea of green and gold and black.
The sight of boozed-up Kiwis at popular drinking holes hours before the floodlights were turned on at Suncorp Stadium must have been a frightening one for Aussie fans. I can also tell you a Wallaby win had absolutely no bearing on their drinking that night.
Alcohol works both ways — if the All Blacks lose, you drink in an attempt to forget; if they win, you drink to celebrate.
The latter is more often the case. Just not last month in Brisbane.
Arriving at the stadium, first-timers like me couldn’t help but be in awe of the magnificent structure.
Well done, Brisbane. Whether you get to your seat a minute or an hour before kick-off, there’s plenty of entertainment, food and drinks.
The seat configuration at Suncorp Stadium means fans are much closer to the action, unlike other stadiums in Australia and New Zealand. Our tour group got to meet Nick Cummins — aka the Honey Badger — at lunch before the game and Crusaders’ head coach Scott “Razor” Robertson joined us in the stadium’s corporate suite before kick-off.
With the Bledisloe Cup in town, the big names come out to play. We later met Wallaby greats George Gregan — with his trademark calcium smile — Phil Kearns and Drew Mitchell, as well as former All Blacks Christian Cullen and Andrew Mehrtens.
In the final quarter, the test came to life and that’s when the crowd got behind their teams. A Kiwi with us in the corporate box kept swapping gold and black hats during the game and had to settle for the former after the final whistle.
He had to be reminded that the result meant diddly-squat for the hosts.
An hour after the game, rugby markings were rubbed off and the pitch prepared for a Hyundai A-League featuring Brisbane Roar the next day.
That’s their level of preparedness.
A rocking venue with a proud history of playing host to rugby, league and football over many decades.
Seeing the best of Brisbane at play
The Global Rugby 10s — February 9-10
With Super rugby stars and Pacific Island heavyweights squaring off for a decent payday, the two-day 10s festival offers a belting chance to see rugby’s next generation of stars mixing it with established names.
Australia hasn’t lost a test at the Gabba since 1988. Like the crowd, the pitch is famously hard, hot and merciless, making the cheerfully nicknamed “Gabbatoir” a fine arena in which to watch Australian cricket — and its fans — in their flared-nostril pomp.
State of Origin — July 11
It’s mate against mate, it’s state against state and it’s hyperbolic commentators against rationality! You’re not a true league fan until you’ve attended Aussie’s annual civil war in the flesh and its greatest battlefield is surely the turf of Suncorp.
Qantas flies from Auckland to Brisbane daily with return, Economy Class tickets starting from $561.