North Queensland's "outside the square" appointment of long-time Fremantle Dockers conditioner Michael Dobbin as head of performance is one football director Peter Parr predicts will pay rich dividends.
Dobbin, who had been senior strength and conditioner at the AFL club since 2008, replaces club legend Paul Bowman, who has switched to a new role as head of sports science.
Dobbin’s work with the Dockers, a club that travels vast distances across the continent most weeks, has given him an insight into how to tailor player training and recovery loads around constantly being on the road.
The Cowboys, who must contend with the same tyranny of distance, still have Bowman and fellow former players Mark Henry and Ash Graham in the performance department, but Parr said Dobbin would look at the role through a "different lens".
They engaged a sports recruitment company to find their new performance chief and received interest from candidates working in the NFL, AFL and elite levels of baseball and football.
"We thought if we could find a person who was really well credentialed from outside our sport that it may be some benefit to us, given the amount of rugby league IQ we already had in that area," Parr told NRL.com.
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"Given that Michael had been at the Dockers – where there was an emphasis on finding out as much as he could around travel, fatigue and recovery – we thought he would be a really good fit for our club.
"What has impressed me so far is Michael's clarity and attention to detail, but what impressed me most was that he wanted to do the job in the first place … to take up the challenge and take himself out of the comfort zone."
Before appointing Dobbin, the Cowboys decided they needed to apply more resources to the sports science area of the business and Bowman, a qualified sports scientist, was the obvious choice for the new role.
"Paul has been very busy as head of performance and wasn't finding the time to give the sports science side of it the attention it deserved, and particularly around research, so the first thing we did was change Paul’s role," Parr said.
Dobbin will work hand-in-glove with Bowman across the spectrum of their two fields, including the interpretation of data which is so vital in the modern game.
Parr said he was confident Dobbin's appointment would "come up trumps" and assist the club to bounce back from a disappointing 13th-placed finish in 2018.
The Cowboys' far-flung location in Townsville poses challenges but also provides opportunities for a club always seeking to find an edge.
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"Because of where we live and our isolation we are always trying to look at things a little differently, and this is one of them," Parr said.
"We are more travelled than any other club, we live in the tropics and we are isolated.
"It is not like we can go and easily access an AFL club, an A-League club or a Super Rugby club to compare what we are doing so we have to think outside the square at times.
"We are not looking to re-invent the wheel but we like to think we are as innovative as we can be."