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NRL Chief Executive Dave Smith has paid tribute to the game’s members and fans at the NRL's launch of the 2014 Telstra Premiership in Sydney tonight.

More than 600 members and fans from across Australia and New Zealand, including a delighted group of ardent Cowboys members, rubbed shoulders with NRL stars as Mr Smith outlined how much members mean and give to the game.

“Members are the fans who go the extra step to support their club,” Smith said.

“They sleep out overnight to buy tickets, they travel all over Australia to see their teams play. They never miss a game.

“That is why, for the first time, we have 600 members here for tonight’s launch.

“They give so much to the game and we are determined to give them something back.”

With their NRL squad at a pre-arranged camp on the Gold Coast, the Cowboys were represented by life member Aaron Payne and two other 200-game NRL veterans Ashley Graham and Dallas Johnson, all of whom are now employed by the North Queensland club in off-field roles.

The Cowboys already have 10,352 members signed up for 2014, less than 700 behind last season’s total figure.

Tonight’s launch, which included entertainment from Cowboys fan Jessica Mauboy, follows one of the most exciting pre-seasons in NRL history, including the inaugural NRL Auckland Nines, the Festival of Indigenous Rugby League in Newcastle, the annual NRL Community Carnival and the World Club Challenge in Sydney.

Acknowledgement of Country

North Queensland Cowboys respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.