The North Queensland Toyota Cowboys touched down in Mackay on Thursday, recalling fond memories of the city being integral to their development as elite sportsmen.
The team take on the Sydney Roosters in Saturday’s pre-season trial match at BB Print Stadium, but not before meeting fans, members and school students in myriad community engagement activities on Thursday and Friday.
First stop was Mackay Toyota soon after touching down, with the team spending an hour signing merchandise and team posters for hundreds of members and fans streaming through the doors of the North Queensland Toyota dealer.
Cowboys co-captain Matt Scott – who will play his first game of 2017 tomorrow night – said the players always enjoyed coming to regional centres in the club’s footprint, with Mackay the base for the Cutters, one of the club’s three feeder teams playing in the Queensland Cup.
“I played a couple of games for the Cutters when I was starting out and the people of Mackay have always been so warm and welcoming,” Scott said.
Fellow prop Sam Hoare won a Queensland Cup premiership with the Cutters in 2013 and said the development pathways at the club – from under-20s to Q-Cup and on to the NRL – served him in good stead in his career.
“We love coming here for these trials and personally, I'm so keen to be back playing again,” said Hoare, who has overcome a serious knee injury that ended his 2016 season in March.
Young flyer Kalyn Ponga first discovered rugby league in Mackay after spending two years in the city in his early high school years.
“I pretty much started on my rugby league journey here,” Ponga said. “The city has good juniors and a good competition and it’s nice to be back here.”
The Cowboys will be involved in media appearances and school visits on Friday, with an open training session from 4pm-5.30pm at BB Print Stadium.
Saturday’s game kicks off at 7pm and will be preceded by a match between the Cutters and the Cowboys under-20s squad from 4.45pm – both games will be live streamed on cowboys.com.au.