Journey to NRL starts here
North Queensland Toyota Cowboys NYC coach Aaron Payne this week welcomes 39 players into his squad for the 2017 pre-season, as the club's focus on developing players through its pathways program continues.
The 2017 NYC squad includes 17 new young players, with 20 returning to the Cowboys side and two train-and-triallists having an opportunity to impress.
"The Cowboys have a proud recent history of signing young talent, nurturing players through our pathways program and then bringing them into the NRL squad," Payne said.
"Some of our success stories include current Cowboys regulars Michael Morgan, Jason Taumalolo and Kyle Feldt, who have all come up through the club’s NYC team.
"As part of the Cowboys senior squad, they've then moved on to the Queensland competition to hone their game, before finding their place in the Cowboys NRL team."
Other young Cowboys who have made their start in NYC and tasted NRL football over the past season include Patrick Kaufusi, Josh Chudleigh, Javid Bowen, Kalyn Ponga and Coen Hess.
Young speed merchants Gideon Gela-Mosby and Marcus Jensen also join Paul Green's NRL squad in 2017, with a view to working on their conditioning, skills and overall development as they eye off the chance to play in the NRL.
- Despite having already played eight NRL matches over the past two seasons, 20-year-old back-rower Coen Hess was, in 2015/16, still officially part of the Cowboys NYC program but moves into the NRL squad full-time in 2017.
- Winger Gideon Gela-Mosby wowed the NYC in 2015 when he smashed the competition single-season individual try-scoring record, touch down an incredible 39 times for the year as the young Cowboys progressed through to the grand final qualifier. He suffered a groin injury in 2016 and missed a number of games but steps up to the NRL squad in 2017.
- Kingaroy product Marcus Jensen, also a winger, stood up admirably in 2016 and his 27 four-pointers topped the NYC stats sheet, and joins the top-flight squad in season 2017.
- Teenager Kalyn Ponga will be part of the NRL squad but still available for NYC selection each week.
- Young halfback and 2016 NYC Cowboy Cooper Bambling will also train with the NRL squad in the 2017 pre-season.
The club farewelled 13 NYC squad members from the 2016 team, with some picked up by other NRL clubs, and some going on to sign with Intrust Super Cup teams, including feeder teams Townsville Blackhawks, Northern Pride and Mackay Cutters.