Retired premiership winning winger Antonio Winterstein will not be lost to the North Queensland Toyota Cowboys with today's announcement he will officially join NRL Cowboys House.
Winterstein starts his role as Career Transitions Officer today and will work closely with Year 10, 11 and 12 students at NRL Cowboys House to help students forge a career path after high school.
NRL Cowboys House is managed by Cowboys Community Foundation and is a joint initiative between the National Rugby League, North Queensland Toyota Cowboys, the Queensland Government and the Australian Government.
The House provides supported accommodation for young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders students from some of North Queensland's most remote and educationally disadvantaged communities, enabling them to access quality secondary education opportunities in Townsville.
Winterstein ranks ninth on the Cowboys' all-time appearance list, playing 167 NRL games during a glittering nine season stint at the club. His 78 tries are the fifth most in club history, trailing only Matt Bowen, Ty Williams, Ashley Graham and Johnathan Thurston.
"It's a huge honour to still be involved with the club that has given me so much over the last eight years. To continue working for the club in a different role has been a goal of mine for a long time and I'm lucky now to be able to pursue that," Winterstein said.
The 30-year-old began studying a Certificate IV of Youth Work during his playing career and volunteered at NRL Cowboys House.
"I've always had a passion for working with young kids. During my footy career I started youth work and as part of my studies I've been fortunate enough to practice my workplace hours at NRL Cowboys House. I immediately became passionate about the House because it aligns with my values."
"I strive to empower young people to have the confidence and drive to reach their full potential. I'm acutely aware of the cultural and social obstacles a lot of these kids face back home in their communities, so I am pleased that I'll be able to help them understand that there are avenues and opportunities open to them."
Winterstein's new position will play a critical role in supporting students to fulfill their potential.
Downer Mining have joined the Cowboys Community Foundation to fund the position, which aligns closely with their commitment to provide training and community development services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from the Gulf of Carpentaria. Downer Mining have entered into a Joint Venture with the Waanyi people and are undertaking a number of work contracts at and around Century Mine located in the Gulf.
Cowboys Community Foundation director Fiona Pelling believes Winterstein will be an invaluable asset for NRL Cowboys House.
"We are really excited about Antonio coming on board to support NRL Cowboys House in the role of Career Transitions Officer. It's a fantastic opportunity for him and the young people at the House," Ms Pelling said.
"'Tones' has amazing experience working with young people and has a genuine passion for working with them.
"He has already done a lot of volunteer hours at the House working with the young people. Kids who were at the House last year will know him very well, as his volunteer hours allowed him to establish some really strong relationships with these young people.
"I think with his vocational choice for post-football this role aligns perfectly with what he believes in and wants to do."