by MATT HARRIS
IT'S official: Gladstone will host an NRL match in 2018.
The news all Gladstone rugby league fans were sweating on was confirmed by the NRL on Thursday after months of work behind the scenes.
The match will be a Gold Coast Titans home game as the club are in need of alternate venues due to the 2018 Commonwealth Games being held on the Gold Coast in April.
The NRL will schedule matches across seven different regional locations in NSW and Queensland as part of the 2018 season.
The Titans will take two matches to regional centres with the other venue confirmed as Toowoomba.
It is understood the Gladstone match will be in either Round 3 or 5 at Marley Brown Oval, while the Titans' Cbus Stadium home ground is being used for Rugby 7s.
Gladstone Region mayor and rugby league fan Matt Burnett has been the driving force behind securing the match, working in conjunction with Member for Gladstone Glenn Butcher and Minister for Tourism, Major Events and the Commonwealth Games, Kate Jones.
"It's fantastic. We've been working on this for months to secure this game for Gladstone," Cr Burnett said.
"We knew this was our opportunity with the Titans needing to relocate for the Commonwealth Games. It was a perfect opportunity to work with the Queensland Government which we've done and a big shout out must go to Kate Jones and Glenn Butcher for securing this game.
"It's been a partnership between (Gladstone Regional) Council, Tourism and Events Queensland, the Queensland Government and the Titans to make sure we could bring this game to Gladstone.
"We understand that we haven't got the facilities they have at Titans or at Suncorp (Stadium), but we know bringing a game like this to Gladstone is a big deal for our community and a big deal for the NRL to put their faith in Gladstone to be able to host this."
Gladstone's last taste of high-level rugby league came in the early 2000s when the Wests Tigers and Melbourne Storm played a pre-season match.
There's no official word yet on who will be the Titans' opponents, however Cr Burnett said the North Queensland Cowboys and Storm were on top of his list.
"We're not sure who they are going to be playing, but I made it very clear to the Titans and the NRL that we believe the most successful game for Gladstone would be the Cowboys or the Storm.
"The Broncos are out of the question.. we love the Broncos but in order to host them you need a capacity in excess of 20,000 people.
"We put forward in order the Cowboys, Storm, Parramatta and Penrith."
Gladstone Rugby League president Richard Duff said Marley Brown Oval will undergo some minor adjustments to accommodate the match.
Mr Duff said the venue was capable of holding up to 8000 spectators.
"The main grandstand holds 1000 people, but we'd have to rope off the top area for corporates and 10-15 seats on the halfway line would need to go to accommodate TV cameras," Duff said.
"On the opposite hill there's no reason we can't scaffold grandstand the whole hill to put people in there."
Duff said if Gladstone was successful in its bid the Pig Pen end of Marley Brown would be for general admission ticket holders.
The Harvey Road Tavern end of the ground would not house any spectators due to its close proximity to the field of play.
Cr Burnett said Gladstone's proactive approach to securing the game was the main reason the bid was successful.
"What got us over the line was we were determined to get the game," he said.
"We were the first council to approach the Titans - I approached them and didn't wait for them to approach us.
"We were there first and knocking on the door saying 'you're going to get booted out, we want you to come to Gladstone' and this is what we are prepared to do to get you here."
The 2018 season will kick off with a double header in Perth on Saturday, March 10, meaning Rounds 3 and 5 will be held over the weekends of March 24-25 and April 7-8 respectively.
The Marley Brown Oval encounter must be played during the day to meet broadcast requirements.
Ms Jones said today's announcement was great for rugby league in Gladstone.
"What better way to celebrate 100 years of rugby league in Gladstone than having your first NRL premiership game," she said.
"This wouldn't have happened if Glenn Butcher didn't secure the money to upgrade facilities there."
Marley Brown will undergo a facelift prior to next season with a 650 square metre multi-purpose building to be built at the Pig Pen end.
The one-storey building, which has the ability to be extended another level, will improved amenities for women and girls to accommodate the increase in female sport participation.