Mareeba product Ben Hampton says the North Queensland Toyota Cowboys’ trial game against the Wests Tigers in Cairns next month couldn’t come at a better time for him.
The 25-year-old utility has been one of the club’s best trainers in the pre-season, the second-year Cowboy perfectly poised to impress in front of family and friends in Far North Queensland.
“The excitement for the new season is definitely starting to build and I know all the boys will be pumped for that first game of the year in Cairns on February 17,” Hampton said.
“For me personally, I'm really looking forward to heading back to Barlow Park and I’ll have a good number of family and friends there to watch our first hit-out of the new season.
“We always love taking games to other cities and towns in our footprint, and we’re stoked we get up to Cairns twice in 2018 – the February trial and in Round 16 against the Rabbitohs on July 1.”
Having played backup hooker to Jake Granville in the team’s golden run to the 2017 grand final, Hampton – a noted ball runner – faces healthy competition for that No.14 jersey in 2018, with emerging rake Josh Chudleigh all but fully recovered from a serious knee injury incurred a year ago.
“Competition for spots is great and keeps all the boys on their toes and ready to produce their best at training, day-in, day-out,” Hampton said.
“Chuds made his debut in 2016, acquitted himself really well and has been great in pre-season … it’s fantastic we’re getting blokes back from that glut of serious injuries we had last season.”
Hampton's utility value is in his favour ahead of head coach Paul Green picking his Round 1 team – during four seasons with the Melbourne Storm, Hampton played either fullback, bench utility, centre or in the halves, underlining his talent and versatility.
Joining him at the Cairns trial will be exciting centre Javid Bowen, 24, the Hope Vale product no stranger to Barlow Park having played for the Northern Pride in the Q-Cup since 2014.
He helped the Pride to a Q-Cup grand final win in that year, as well as the NRL State Championship a week later, scoring five tries across the two matches.
The powerful outside back has been rehabbing from off-season shoulder surgery but is expected to be in the mix for the Tigers trial.
“Yeah, I’m looking forward to getting back out on the field,” Bowen said.
“The shoulder feels good, I’ve been training well … I’ve got some great memories of playing at Barlow Park for the Pride and it will be great to get back there in Cowboys colours.”
Having played 23 NRL games over the past two seasons, Bowen will be putting pressure on incumbent centres Justin O’Neill and Kane Linnett for spots in 2018.
Tickets for the February 17 match are on sale now, with a great-value Cairns trial game membership also available through the Cowboys membership team.
- Grandstand: $49
- General Admission: Adult $23.10; Child (5-17 yrs) $7.35; Family $49 (4 tickets @ $12.25ea); Student/pensioner $7.35
- Available via: ticketlink.com.au or call 1300 855 835
(*Ticket price includes a booking fee of 5% of ticket price capped at $2 per ticket)
Cowboys Cairns Trial Game Membership - $60!
- General admission ticket (outer) to Cowboys v Tigers pre-season trial, 17 Feb, Barlow Park
- Access to exclusive members area to watch open training session, 16 Feb, Barlow Park
- Super Star membership, including merchandise pack or Team Shop voucher (value $30) and Cowboys Leagues Club membership (value $11), plus lots of other exclusive benefits!
- Online: membership.cowboys.com.au
- Phone: 1300 462 692 (option 1)
- In person: Cowboys HQ, 1300SMILES Stadium, Kirwan