ALL SMILES: Footy great Johnathan Thurston turns on the charm for the camera at the Hinkler Central reopening celebrations. Photo: Vanessa Marsh
ALL SMILES: Footy great Johnathan Thurston turns on the charm for the camera at the Hinkler Central reopening celebrations. Photo: Vanessa Marsh

Hinkler takes on shade of Maroon for reopening

BUNDABERG experienced a traffic jam when the Queensland State of Origin team gathered at Hinkler Central for the centre's reopening.

After four months of hard work, the doors to the shiny new centre were thrown open and this time people rather than water flooded in to take a look at the new and improved mall.

But there was no denying the main attraction was outside in the carpark where much of the newly announced Queensland State of Origin side made an appearance to meet the people of Bundaberg and sign jerseys, posters and other gear.

Centre manager Renee Pukallus said yesterday's opening was the culmination of four months of hard work.

"I must admit today is a very emotional day for me," Mrs Pukallus said.

"I'm so happy to be the captain of this ship today."

Mrs Pukallus beamed as she looked around the sea of faces that arrived to welcome the centre back.

"This is such a proud moment for me," she said.

"The resilience of this community is just amazing."

Former Bundy boy and Queensland Origin coach Mel Meninga said camping at Salter Oval on Monday night was quite an "adventure".

"It was a unique experience," he said.

"It was fun.

"The boys get on really well - it's like a real family."

Mr Meninga said the visit to lift the spirits of the community was a "small thing" the team could do to help out.

Eighty-eight-year-old Dot Drahein was one of the many community members who turned out to meet the players.

"She's 88 and can't see much but she knows every footballer," carer Janelle Trebbin said.

Nine-year-old Ethan Jones, who idolises Broncos Captain Sam Thaiday, and his mum Kelly were the first in line to see the team.

"We've been here since well before 8am," Ms Jones said.

"We have been excited."

Sports journalist and rugby league commentator Pat Welsh took to the stage to welcome people back to the centre and let people know the team were running late thanks to a traffic jam of their own making.

"That's how much of a frenzy they've created," Mr Welsh told the crowd.

"It's great you've shown up in such great numbers.

"They've been through hell here."



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