PART 1: Cane farming Cowboy
PART 2: Working at the Cowboys
When Justin Loomans had to choose between trialing with the Brisbane Broncos and the North Queensland Cowboys it was not a difficult choice.
There were really only two things to consider. Which club presented his best opportunity to play first grade – and lifestyle?
The North Queensland Cowboys proved the right choice in both these aspects and now Loomans is looming as one of the XXXX Cowboys most promising country finds.
For the Rockhampton boy who was playing first grade at Norths in Rockhampton the step up to first grade Winfield Cup was a considerable one, but one which his former coach and mentor Murray Hurst was sure Loomans could achieve.
Hurst, a Queensland Country, Queensland Resident, North Queensland, and Central Queensland coach, noticed Loomans as a 17-year-old playing Under 19s and gave him the opportunity in his A grade side.
"I noticed his running style and his ability to go into the game of rugby league without much experience and make an impact," Hurst said.
He is not surprised by the potential shown by Loomans since joining the Cowboys. He was impressed by two particular qualities which he believes have contributed to Loomans' success.
"He is very honest in life and a good listener," Hurst said of Loomans.
The Brisbane Broncos had shown faith in the young winger. He had attended two Broncos talent camps and was awarded a scholarship with the club in 1994.
The Brisbane club then joined the Crushers, Gold Coast, Illawarra and the Cowboys in expressing their interest when Loomans made the decision to consider a Winfield Cup club last year.
"In the end it came down to where I thought I had a better chance of playing first grade and where I would be happy living," he said.
"I had been to Brisbane a few times and didn't really like Brisbane. It was a bit big for me.
"Townsville was just a bigger version of Rocky. The people were friendly and supportive and North Queenslanders are sports mad."
The decision to join the Cowboys proved to be the right one.
"Everything has worked out well above my expectations," Loomans said.
Loomans played three reserve grade games before an injury to John Skardon opened the way for his entry to first grade this season.
When the opportunity came Loomans said he was very determined to make the most of it.
"My family didn't want me to be disappointed if I didn't get where I wanted to," Loomans said. "I was always confident I could do it."
Loomans isn't sure where his rugby league talent originates.
"Dad didn't play and nobody in my family played football," he said.
Maybe it was the talented company he played amongst during his early football days.
"I played schoolboys football with John Driscoll, Damian Gibson, Matt Sing and Sid Domic," Loomans said.
"They all left soon after school, but got caught up in the lower grades at clubs.
"I always felt when it was right to go I would move to a club where I would get graded straight away."
When he made the decision to commit to top level rugby league it was a total commitment.
In Townsville he decided not to pursue his carpentry apprenticeship, preferring to make the most of the opportunity offered to him and focus all his attentions on earning and keeping that grade spot.
The sporting Loomans first played rugby league at the age of six in Under 7s for the Gracemere State Primary School.
Before making the commitment to pursue rugby league as a career he also tried his hand at rugby union, boxing, athletics, touch football, beach volleyball and indoor netball.
"I just love getting out and playing sport," he said.
"I have a very competitive nature. Everything I play I want to win.
"I am very determined. If I set my mind to something I really go to great lengths to get it.
"I always believe you never stop learning.
"You listen to everybody, take it all in, then make your own decision."
Loomans is not shy about the attention playing in the top level rugby league competition brings.
He has taken the additional publicity and promotional roles with ease and relishes playing in front of a home crowd at Stockland Stadium.
"I love it. I had played for Queensland Country in front of big crowds, but they were always lead up games," Loomans said.
"To have everyone here behind you and supporting you... it is great.
"I have just turned 20 and hopefully I have a long time left playing rugby league.
"Hopefully I will be able to make a lot of wise choices investment wise.
"By doing the right thing I should be able to set myself up so when it comes to the point when my career is at an end I will be able to reap the benefits.
"I don't want to look back and say I had a great 10 years, but end up with nothing."
Once his playing career is over Loomans hopes to remain involved with the game, possibly through coaching and development of juniors.
"For me this has been a dream come true," he said of his opportunity in the top grade.
"I love playing football and love being up here, but by the same token it has sort of been a big jump from club A Grade level."
His achievements this season seem to justify his life motto – 'When preparation meets opportunity that's when your luck will occur'.
"If you work hard and finally get the opportunity that's when your luck has come," Loomans said.