New North Queensland Toyota Cowboys chief executive officer Greg Tonner has officially begun his new role at the club, returning to the region after 23 years.

Townsville-born and raised, Tonner was appointed to the role in February, and has been working behind the scenes over the past month before moving to Townsville last week.

Previously, Tonner worked in the telecommunications and IT sector, based in Sydney.

He said his focus during the initial stages of his tenure would be to connect with the club’s membership and sponsorship bases, and the wider community, and to strengthen connections between them, which would lead to further financial viability.

The club currently has 13,533 members, and Mr Tonner says helping to connect with these members and with the whole region would be one of his key focus areas.

To that end, he will spend the upcoming months meeting members of key stakeholder groups – including rugby league associations, community organisations, all three levels of government and chambers of commerce – across the club’s vast geographical footprint.

“The role as the Cowboys see it, breaking it down, is that the membership and the community are really important,” he said.

“Wherever we go within our footprint, we want to foster and enhance those already strong connections between our communities and this club.

“We’ve got a fantastic product and team here that really resonates with North Queensland, so it’s our job to help nurture those strong connections and, in turn help to grow that financial viability through memberships and sponsorships.”

Tonner says he has already been impressed with the club, both on and off the field, and loves the fact that the Cowboys are ‘part of the region’s DNA’.

“Although the Cowboys are based in Townsville, we’re not the Townsville Cowboys, we’re the North Queensland Cowboys and it’s crucial that that particular message is front and centre of what we’re about,” he said.

“Growing up in North Queensland, doing my schooling and university studies here and now returning to the region, it’s really evident that we’ve always had to be innovative to succeed up here, and that’s a part of this new role that really excites me. Are we ready for growth? Absolutely.”

Despite having been away from Townsville, Tonner has retained a strong connection with North Queensland over the years, returning annually to visit family members living in Townsville.

“My parents are here, my sister is here, plus a number of cousins, so this is new role is a homecoming for me in every sense of the word,” he said.