The North Queensland Cowboys are fast becoming a home for scientists with rising prop Corey Jensen revealing how his sports science degree has assisted him to get the most out of his game.
Former Cowboys stars Paul Bowman and Ashley Graham both have sports science degrees and are on staff at North Queensland with Bowman head of the high performance unit and Graham working under him as a sports scientist himself.
Jensen, who they call 'T2' up in Cowboys country in reference to the second incarnation of the Terminator, had a breakout season in 2017 when he played 17 NRL games and earned a contract extension through to the end of 2019.
The 24-year-old North Queensland product is highly regarded for the energy he brings to all his performances and his durability. He said the knowledge he had gleaned from his degree had enabled him to be prepared to fire, and stay, on the field.
"I completed my sports science degree, probably two years ago now. I was in a few classes with Ash Graham," Jensen told NRL.com.
"I think it gives you a real insight into what you need to do preparation-wise, your diet, your training, what you need to intake with food and water and hygiene.
"Also in the gym you try and keep yourself on the field and try and keep your body right, so it gives you a really good insight into that. It probably gives you that head start that other players don't get.
"It really comes down to preparation. I guess that's what a sports science degree gave me."
Bowman told NRL.com Jensen was "as good as they get in terms of professionalism and his preparation" and was not surprised that Jensen's studies had assisted him.
"Speaking from experience I know when I was studying and still playing they complemented each other, because you were training in the environment you were learning about and vice-versa," he said.
"Corey's skinfolds are always outstanding and he's one of our best lifters in the gym. His nickname is 'T2', after the Terminator. He is just a machine.
"From our point of view he is the perfect trainer and the model athlete. I am sure he would be easy to coach too because he is always striving to get better."
With Matt Scott back and Jordan McLean now on board the challenge to stay in the top 17 is one Jensen is up for, with the added bonus of also being able to "learn as much as I can off the best".
His stellar performances in last year's finals series has put him in good stead.
"You don't play many bigger games in the NRL so to know that I was a part of that and I was holding my own… gives me heaps of confidence and I just know I can improve a lot from last year and hopefully better my game," Jensen said.
"There are a lot of players that probably played that didn't expect to play last year, myself included. I think it's made the depth in our squad a lot greater… and having the older fellas back it's going to make them a bit hungrier to keep their positions and make us more hungry to get in the squad.
"I think everyone's hungry to prove it, you want a taste of it and you want to stay in the side so it's definitely going to be a motivation of mine is to sort of push my claims and to show Greeny [coach Paul Green] and the rest of the staff that I'm still capable of doing that job and hopefully push for round one."
After being in the Cowboys under 20s and playing Intrust Super Cup, Bowman said Jensen had earned his chance and was a player with a bright future.
"There will be some competition, but there are some older guys who will be finishing up in the next couple of years, so this is an opportunity for Corey to be like a sponge and learn as much as he can off guys like Matt Scott and Scott Bolton," Bowman said.
"Corey might have to patient over the next year or two but there will still be opportunities. He is a young North Queenslander and hopefully he has a long term future here."