Mareeba product Ben Hampton says family played a big part in his decision to join the North Queensland Toyota Cowboys on a three-year deal.
Hampton, 24, was officially unveiled as the newest Cowboy at the club’s launch of its 2017 jersey range and new sternum jersey sponsor Bundaberg Rum on Thursday.
The young utility returns to the North after a lengthy stint at the Melbourne Storm.
He played 35 NRL games over four seasons for the men in purple, including coming off the bench in the 2016 NRL grand final against the Cronulla Sharks.
“As soon as I started talking to the Cowboys, I was really excited at the prospect of coming back up here to North Queensland and for me, it was a really good thing to be closer to family,” Hampton said.
“I’ve been away from home for a long time and only catch up with my family a couple of times a year.
"(Coming home) has been a big thing for myself and also how successful the club has been in the past couple of years … I was really keen to be a part of that.”
Hampton said he was thrilled to start a new chapter in his rugby league journey, and is looking forward to ripping into pre-season for his new club next month.
“I’ve only played one NRL game up here but have made the trip to Townsville a few times, both as an 18th man and with the (Storm) under-20s team,’’ he said.
“The fans seem unreal up here and I’m pretty keen to run out in front of a full home crowd one day.”
A truly versatile footballer who played almost every backline position during his time at Melbourne, Hampton said he was keen to put his best foot forward in the pre-season in a bid to crack into the Cowboys’ top 17 in 2017.
“I’ve still got a couple of weeks to relax, but after a strong pre-season, I’m hopeful of setting myself up for a good year and push for a spot come Round 1 next season,” he said.
Hampton said that he was still unsure what his best position was after a busy 2016 season at the Storm, where he played in 19 of a possible 28 games for the Melbourne-based club.
“A lot of that (thoughts on my position) changed this year,” he said.
“Before the season, I thought I would be playing mainly in the halves or at fullback, or something like that,” he said.
“But as the season went on, I was in other positions in the backline and then sometimes playing in the middle.
“So I’m not sure where I’ll find a permanent spot just yet, but it will be spoken about with Greeny (Cowboys head coach Paul Green) and the coaching staff in the pre-season.”
No matter what position he plays, Hampton said he was excited to be playing alongside some experienced and talented footballers.
“Some of the names in this team will go down as all-time greats,” Hampton said.
“So to come up here and be a part of that … I jumped at the chance.”
The Cowboys’ pre-season training will start in mid-November.