Academy players

Thirty-five NRL hopefuls have finished up a camp with the North Queensland Toyota Cowboys that has given them a great insight into life as a professional rugby league player.

Aged between 14 and 17 years, the group lived and breathed rugby league for four days, including having the chance to train alongside the Cowboys’ NRL squad at the start of their Tuesday afternoon session and chat with recently retired Test and Origin star Brent Tate.

The young footballers are in the first stages of their development in the Cowboys system which will hopefully see them progress into the under-20s squad when they finish school and then become NRL players.

As well as on-field training and a very tough conditioning day that included climbs of Mt Stuart and Castle Hill, the group was involved in sessions on the importance of good nutrition, careers and study choices, recovery techniques and media training.

Predominantly from North and Central Queensland, the youngsters take part in monthly North Queensland Toyota Dealers Academy sessions in their home regions conducted by Cowboys elite pathways coach Aaron Payne and strength and conditioning coach Ash Graham.

This is the only time in the year that they come together as one.

“This camp is a reward for the boys who have put in a year of hard work on and off the field,” Payne said.

“They’ve enjoyed what they’ve been tasked with this week even though it was a very busy and challenging schedule.

“We threw a very tough physical day at them on Wednesday that they came through impressively and will give them great confidence for the future.

“It’s also a great chance for boys from different towns to come together, meet each other and make friends from areas outside their own.

“If they make it through to the NYC squad, they will already know their teammates and staff, making the transition to life here at the Cowboys much easier.”