The distance from Auckland to Townsville is 3,345 kilometres.
Quite a journey for someone who’s never been away from their family home for more than two days.
That’s the story of Braden Uele.
“Moving away was a big experience for me and so I chatted to my dad about it and he said if you come home I’ll support you but I don’t want you having regrets seeing people on TV you trained with saying that could’ve been me,” Braden said.
At 18, he crossed the ditch in search of his rugby league dream, which started with the Sydney Roosters NYC squad.
“You miss the little things of home, like food, family, friends, knowing your way around,” he said.
But after two seasons with the Chooks, Uele headed north.
Another goodbye for the Junior Kiwi.
But the move to Townsville, which he describes as being similar to home, has continued the making of this young man.
He’s had some pretty big shoulders to lean on – NRL squad members and fellow Kiwis James Tamou and Jason Taumalolo have taken their countryman under their wing.
“He and Jason Taumalolo have definitely been a big help for me – hanging out with Jase a few times and talking about how we moved over, it’s a huge help.”
He’s immersed himself in football and community programs through the Cowboys community team and sees he has a responsibility to give back.
“It's important, because coming from a small place we see a lot of good kids with plenty of talent who get caught in the wrong circle.”
“That’s upsetting to see 'cause you know they can go so far,” he said.
Something he knows all too well.
Early mornings, wet, miserable Auckland weather – through rain, hail and sometimes shine, Braden’s parents supported their son’s dream no matter what.
“I definitely owe them a lot and I don’t think I could ever repay them but I’m just slowly trying to get there.”
Cowboys Elite Pathway Manager Micheal Luck says Braden has applied himself to football since moving north.
“Braden is really thriving in the environment here at the Cowboys and we look forward to seeing him develop through our program.”
The prop will play his first competition game for the Cowboys NYC squad against his old club on Saturday, the first of what should be many for the blue and grey.
“I just want to get a couple games of Intrust Super Cup, that’ll be good for me.
"Playing against the men in the trials was definitely a step up, I thought I handled it well.
"In the under 20’s beating the Pride was a big confidence boost to kick start the season.”