Wednesday proved a night for creating legends at the State of Origin decider.
Wednesday proved a night for creating legends at the State of Origin decider.

Agony before ecstasy

THERE was despair, anger, sadness and heroism on display at Emerald Airport yesterday after State of Origin-bound passengers were told their QantasLink flight to Brisbane was “indefinitely delayed”.

Flight 2401, a 74-seat Dash 8 aircraft, was scheduled to leave Emerald at 1.10pm, but on its touchdown at the airstrip, crews ran into “technical issues”.

After several further delays, it became clear to passengers that particular plane would not be getting them to the game.

Blackwater’s Steve Humble was one who waited anxiously for news of another flight.

His 22-year-old son, Tommy, was playing in the curtain-raiser at 5.45pm and Mr Humble was making the trip to watch him.

An announcement informed them a flight from Moranbah had been rerouted with 35 seats available - preference going to those with Origin tickets or scheduled to catch a connecting flight.

A crowd of far more than 35 rushed to the front counter to get their names on the list.

Some made it, some didn’t.

Mr Humble was one of the lucky ones and despite missing 70 minutes of his son’s game he witnessed the Queensland victory and was in good spirits yesterday.

“At one stage I thought it might be better for me to just drive home and watch the game on TV,” Mr Humble said.

“I missed (Tommy’s) game but we were able to catch up for a yarn and a beer afterwards which was great. It was a huge night, the atmosphere was amazing - definitely worth it.”

While Mr Humble was lucky, Emerald’s Gordon Graham was not and to make matters worse, he had purchased seven premium corporate tickets costing $1200 each.

Included in the package was a pre-game dinner function where attendees were wined and dined.

His travelling party of seven, including his four sons, missed the Moranbah flight and consequently, the function. But after a second plane was diverted, the Graham party left for Brisbane, counting the minutes.

They rushed to the stadium, thanks to last-minute transport organised by Emerald’s Harvey World travel and made it to their seats with minutes to spare before kick-off.

The only three passengers out of the 74 stranded who did not make it to the game became Central Highland’s own heroes on Wednesday, Mayor Peter Maguire, his wife Jo and their daughter Brooke, all worked tirelessly to resolve the crisis.

“The Mayor went absolutely above and beyond his duties,” Gordon’s son Geoff said.

“Instead of getting himself on the next flight, he was running around on the tarmac loading luggage and helping everyone out, making sure they got there ahead of himself.

“Old Maggot has always been a goer and he is an absolute credit to this area.”

Cr Maguire worked all afternoon to make sure those waiting were placed on flights and made it to the game, personally handing out boarding passes to each individual.

In the end, the Maguires elected not to go and were the only three not to be in their seats at Suncorp Stadium.

The mood of those stranded was decidedly better when the debacle became a distant memory, replaced by the history-making performance witnessed at a jam-packed Suncorp for a night they will remember forever.

While Darren Lockyer may have been the hero for most Queenslanders on Wednesday, it was the heroic actions of the Central Highland’s Mayor that made it possible for many to be part of the moment.

QantasLink spokeswoman Kira Reed said two services were diverted from Moranbah to help passengers get to Brisbane and the game in time.

She said technical difficulties had rendered the plane unsafe but said the problem had since been rectified.

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