Foundation North Queensland Cowboy Adrian Vowles shares his lasting memories of 1300SMILES Stadium with passionate Cowboys member Kate Cornish ahead of our final game against the Bulldogs on Thursday, August 29th. 

The week leading up to the first game against the Bulldogs was amazing. The atmosphere around the town was next level and everyone wanted to chat about the game when they ran into Cowboys players.

It was all about the region and that made us feel so proud to pull on that jersey for the first game.

Our coach Grant Bell and CEO Kerry Boustead were trying to keep a lid on emotions and making sure we didn’t play the game before it happened, but they also wanted us to realise the enormity of the occasion.

It was the first time an NRL team from North Queensland would take the field on their home ground and as players we didn’t want to let them down.

Which leads me to our home ground - it was still being finished and time was running out fast!

Players had already played a part in building it, with Paul Galea building the gym inside and Andrew Whittington on the ground, helping staff and getting ready for the first game, along with a number of other players.

One afternoon early in the week, we all turned up for a training session at the ground only to be told by Belly that we would be laying turf because it needed to be finished before the big game.

We thought it was a joke at first but soon realised that indeed it wasn’t. I can tell you though, that not one player moaned or groaned, we just happily got stuck into the task at hand – "build the field and they will come".

You cannot imagine a team doing that today in the lead up to a game let alone the first game of the club’s history! As fate would have it, it rained on the Saturday and a lot of that turf came sliding down the hill.

We knew there was going to be a big crowd for our first game because by the time we arrived at the ground there were people for miles and miles, bus after bus of supporters, flags, cheering, yelling.

Between entering the stadium and getting to the dressing shed, I would have signed about 100 autographs. When we got in the sheds and started getting changed, that’s when the enormity of what we were about to do, sunk in for me. It was an amazing feeling.

I felt I was going to have one of the best games of my life, I was nervous but excited at the same time. I was relaxed as I could be, and I also sensed that with the others too.

To look over and see Laurie Spina and know how proud he would have felt to lead his home team on to the field for the very first time along with his other Ingham teammate Dean Schifilliti was inspiring to say the least.

I was there with several my Gold Coast team mates from the year before in Dave Bouveng, Paul Galea, Pud Whittington, Ian Dunemann, John Skardon and Leigh 'Grover' Groves; they helped to put me at ease and it was a moment I will never forget.

I have two favourite moments from being at that stadium. The first moment was opening game night, it was incredible. We had watched that stadium being built, we had watched the field being put in, we had watched the grandstand and hills being finished, and of course we had played a hand in the stadium completion, so to then run out in the first game to a packed house with a noise so loud you could hardly hear yourself think, that was a very special moment and we created history that night. (I created it twice because I was also the first player to be sent off for the Cowboys – always good to be remembered for something…!)

The second favourite moment was the very first win at home against the Wests Magpies. What a night that was! I knew that day we were going to win and when we did it was like we had won the Grand Final, it was amazing.

We stayed on the field for quite a while afterwards and interacted with the fans, signed autographs and had photos taken, we milked it for everything we had. We only won two games that year and that was the second win after a good win against Illawarra away.

- Adrian Vowles

Tickets for our final regular season game at 1300SMILES Stadium against the Bulldogs on Thursday, August 29 go on sale to the general public at 12pm today! Get your tickets here!