Party time in Townsville as Cowboys return
They say a picture tells a thousand words.
Well, North Queenslanders could probably write a hardback novel on the scenes in Townsville on Monday afternoon.
It was a Civic Reception to remember as over 10,000 of the Cowboys' most committed fans shared the hallowed turf of 1300SMILES Stadium with the 2015 Telstra NRL premiers.
Prior to the stadium party, it was an audio and visual phenomenon at Townsville airport where the triumphant Cowboys first greeted their loving community.
The delirious yet well-behaved fans combined with a drum group in a collective show of emotion that had been building year upon year since the club's introduction to the national competition 20 years ago.
Monday's scenes were quite simply uplifting. There was nothing but sheer elation felt among a region that has had its share of struggles of late.
Head coach Paul Green probably broke a personal record for a sustained smile; he just could not stop.
Along with his players, he shook hands with anyone and everyone as the group slowly made their way through the public guard of honour, embracing fans and family members along the way.
Among the swell of media, staff and players, a humbled assistant coach David Furner stopped to make a small huddle with his family.
Members of the club's brains trust, CEO Greg Tonner and General Manager of Football Peter Parr, wore ear-to-ear smiles like Augustus Gloop in Wonka's chocolate factory.
Barely able to hear the questions screamed in his ear, Tonner told NRL.com that Sunday's Grand Final victory was "the best thing that has ever happened to North Queensland".
"I think it's definitely a springboard for connecting, not only North Queensland but to the whole of Australia," he said among the sea of support on the way to the bus.
"Sydney made North Queensland their home for a week and we are very thankful.
"We'd love them all to come back here so we can repay the hospitality."
And then there were the co-captains, Johnathan Thurston and Matt Scott, who lifted the trophy in unison as the 1000+ screaming fans lifted the roof off Townsville airport.
Thurston called it the best achievement of his storied career, and that about says it all.
Running late for the 3pm Civic Reception, it took approximately 10 minutes for the group to file through the terminal and onto the waiting bus which took them straight to the playing field.
Thurston, of course, rode shotgun on the way to the ground, guarding the game's most prized possession like it was one of his children.
Club chairman Laurence Lancini was one of the first to address the public, saying the crowd support the team received at ANZ Stadium shows what the North Queensland Cowboys mean to the NRL competition.
"To hear the roar for this club certainly made me understand where this club sits in the hierarchy of this competition," Lancini said.
"Thank you all for your support and celebrate this week because without all of you we would not be here today."
With the Provan-Summons trophy in hand Cowboys players bounced around the stage, the beverages flowed and it seemed like the reality of the situation had just started to sink in.
North Queensland Cowboys. NRL Premiers of 2015.