The North Queensland Toyota Cowboys’ Gold Stars inaugural QRLW season was just one round old when elite pathways coach Ben Jeffries received the news of a club-wide stand-down due to COVID-19 in early April.
Suddenly, hectic days spent managing the Cowboys Academy and coaching the club’s first women’s team turned into concerns on the home front, with no timeline on a return to work and a family to support.
Determined to create more stability in a time of great uncertainty, Jeffries took a chance and applied for contract work with club major partner BMD Group, joining a small group of Cowboys football staff keen to take on a new challenge and keep a pay cheque coming in.
After successfully landing a DIDO (drive-in-drive-out) labourer position, Jeffries began work on Adani’s Carmichael Rail Network in the Galilee Basin near Belyando, approx. 200km north-west of Clermont.
Five weeks on and the incumbent coach for the Queensland Under 18 Emerging Origin girls QAS squad is still working with BMD, with the prospect of returning to his beloved Cowboys role a hope on the horizon as restrictions ease.
Jeffries says the safety net of the BMD role has been a blessing for him and his family.
“Like so many others, I found myself at least temporarily out of work and that was a scary prospect.
“I consider myself very fortunate to have this opportunity – it has given me a lifeline but is also great experience while we’re waiting to see what happens next,” he said.
Tuesday 24 March 2020 is a day the club and Cowboys CEO Jeff Reibel will long remember.
Football and administration staff gathered on the training field at Cowboys HQ to receive the bad news many had feared would result from the pandemic.
Since then, Reibel and his executive team have steered the club back to competition and been able to reinstate a number of roles, with around half of the club’s workforce still on stand-down.
This experience has been extremely humbling, from both the human impact of the situation and the incredible response we’ve had from our stakeholders.Jeff Reibel, Cowboys CEO
“It has been a wonderful example of the Cowboys family at work," he said.
“Just days after the news of our shut-down, BMD Group and Adani both let us know about vacancies and invited our people to apply. We couldn’t ask for more from our partners.
“We’re very proud of our five staff who took up this opportunity, and of our entire team for the integrity and resilience they’ve shown through this, regardless of their circumstances.”
Reibel also welcomed the news of BMD’s civil construction works contract for Adani’s Carmichael Rail Network, with the broader Carmichael Mine and Rail project set to create 1,500 direct jobs and a further 6,750 indirect jobs during construction.
“This is great news for our region and for two important partners of our club, and we’re delighted that we could be part of it,” he said.
Scott Power, BMD Group Executive Director – Operations, said he is proud that BMD is in a position to be able to offer opportunities to employees of their long-time partners.
At a time when jobs across the country are hard to come by, it was wonderful to collaborate with fellow Cowboys partner and our client, Adani to provide jobs for fellow Queenslanders on the Carmichael Rail Network project.Scott Power, BMD Group Executive Director – Operations
"Over our 40-year history, we have proudly supported the people and communities in which we operate, and we will continue to partner with like-minded organisations such as the North Queensland Cowboys to ensure we play a part in a strong and sustainable Queensland into the future," he said.
Adani Mining CEO Lucas Dow said Adani has continued to provide employment opportunities for regional Queenslanders by adhering to all Queensland Health and Federal Government COVID-19 restrictions.
“North Queensland has backed us from day one and we’re 100% committed to backing north Queensland and our sponsorship partners,” he said.
Ben’s position with BMD is just one example of the jobs our project has provided for north and central Queenslanders and at a time when a job is hard to come by, this is great for the Cowboys and great for our team.Lucas Dow, Adani Mining CEO