AUSTRALIA's biggest sporting event for 2013 will stage a key part of its game in Noosa.
The world's largest touring rugby union team, the British & Irish Lions officially announced Noosa as the destination for their official Training & Recovery Week as part of their 2013 Lions Tour, at Noosa Dolphins clubhouse last week.
Rugby union fans who had gathered at the club to kick off the Rugby Sevens weekend of football with a long lunch had more reason to celebrate after hearing the surprise news.
But Noosa Dolphin's member Donald McKill's smile only grew broader. Scottish born Mr McKill, who moved to Australia seven years ago, had forged links with members of the famous team as a young football player.
And he used his influence to show off his Noosa home to Team manager Andy Irwin, Logistics Manager Guy Richardson and Head Coach Warren Gatland.
"I invited them to come and have a look," he said.
"They had never been to Noosa before.
"So they came and fell in love with the place and they loved the venue," he said.
The only sticking point was the condition of the grounds; and council came to the rescue with a $60,000 revamp package.
Councillor Russell Green said it has been about 25 years since the grounds had work done on them and the benefits the tour would bring to Noosa and the rest of the coast justified the payment. Returfing starts on the field in two weeks and will take about four months to final complete.
Cr Green called the funding a "shrewd investment' that would have diverse benefits including building on lucrative tourism markets.
"The English market is our no. one international market and this re-inforces the relationship," he said.
Tourism Noosa General Manager Damien Massingham said between 100 and 200 people including the team, management and media will visit for the week.
Additionally the tour attracts about 25000 fans that travel around the world following one of the world's most famous touring Rugby Union teams.
"We would expect about 20% of that crowd to come to come to the Coast," he said.
"Tourism Noosa in conjunction with Sunshine Coast Destination Ltd will be targeting their fans to also visit our region during the teams stay. As well we will be targeting Brisbane and other domestic rugby fans, along with New Zealand rugby tragics to visit Noosa and the wider Sunshine Coast during this time."
The 115-strong team have already booked out Sheraton Noosa and have said they look forward to being involved in the community including holding training clinics.
Chris Burton, President of the Noosa Dolphins said Rugby fans from across the Coast, Brisbane and further afield will have the chance of seeing the British & Irish Lions training.
"We are honoured to have been chosen as the destination and also the sporting facility for their training & recovery."
> Key points
The Team will arrive in Noosa in June, 2013, for three days training and following that recovery time
Celebrating their 125th anniversary tour in 2013, the tour takes place every 4 years but only comes to Australia every 12 years and will incorporate 6 regional games and 3 test matches in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney.
- The team will spend three days training and some recovery time in Noosa between the two interstate matches.
> Long history
The first official tour by the British Isles Rugby Union Team, selected by a committee from all four Home Unions, was to South Africa in 1910. But the idea was not a new one, as combined British & Irish teams had been heading for the southern hemisphere since 1888
The first tour was a commercial venture made without official backing, but the six subsequent visits that took place prior to 1910 enjoyed a growing degree of support from the authorities, although only one of these included representatives of all four nations.
The Lions name was coined during the inter-war period, when the emblem on the players' jersey and lapel badges gave them their alternative title.
The 1950s proved a golden age for Lions rugby, although it was not until the 1970s that style was matched with the substance of victory in New Zealand and South Africa.
Some questioned whether the Lions had a future in the age of professionalism and the Rugby World Cup. But the popular support given to the 1997 and 2001 tours put an end to these questions.
The 2005 Tour to New Zealand proved to be an even bigger event with a reported 30,000 fans travelling to support the team. The Lions were managed by former England international Bill Beaumont and coached by former England coach Sir Clive Woodward
The 2009 tour to South Africa was a tough assignment for Paul OýConnellýs team as they had to face the reigning World Cup and Tri-Nations champions. The 10 match tour turned into an outstanding success both on and off the field as the Lions rekindled their magic and pushed John Smitýs Springboks all the way in one of the greatest Test series of the professional era.
The Lions won six and drew one of their provincial matches, but went down 2-1 in a pulsating Test campaign.
Having fallen behind 2-0 with defeats in Durban and Pretoria, the latter to a last second penalty from his own half by Morne Steyn, the Lions battled back to win the final Test in Johannesburg 28-9.