We caught up with former North Queensland Toyota Cowboys captain Travis Norton to talk about his early years, his playing career, and what he's up to now.
Norton, 44, spent time with the South Queensland Crushers and Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs, before joining the Cowboys in 2004 and captaining the club to our first Grand Final appearance in 2005.
The Moranbah junior made 207 NRL appearances between 1995-2006 and represented Queensland on five occasions.
In 2015, Norton was voted as the lock in the Cowboys' 20-Year Team.
Q&A: Travis Norton (Cowboy #158)
You were born in Redcliffe before moving to Moranbah and playing your junior football with the Moranbah Miners. How old were you when you started playing and what made you get involved with the sport?
I started playing in the under 10s. Growing up in a small country town like Moranbah, there were a few sporting options, but during winter it was mainly just footy, soccer, and hockey. I started playing hockey when I was really young, but for whatever reason, I gravitated towards footy as well, probably because the old man used to play. Most kids just follow what their dad is into, and I was no different.
You debuted with the South Queensland Crushers at just 18-years-old in 1995. How did you find out you were making your debut and what do you remember about the game?
I played a couple of A-Grade trial games going into that season. I remember missing out on the first Crushers team that went to Emerald and played Manly. There were a couple of other trials and I went okay. Bobby Lindner called me in and let me know I was making my debut in Round 1. I was over the moon and I was lucky enough to play against Canberra, although unlucky from the perspective that they were the Premiers in 1994. It was a tough initiation. One memory I have of that game was Laurie Daley treating me like I was an 18-year-old kid off the scrum and ran straight around me to score.
You moved to the Bulldogs two years later and were a part of a Grand Final there in 1998 off the back of four sudden-death elimination matches in a row. What do you remember about that season?
We weren't sitting pretty in the leadup to the finals. We finished ninth so we had to play a lot of elimination games. Each week was an elimination so it was just a dream run.
Something else I remember about that time was that 'Bullfrog' [Peter Moore] was pretty crook at that stage. Each week we would go and see him in the hospital before the game. Given the standing that 'Bullfrog' had in the organisation, it really hit home as to what rugby league meant to a lot of people.
You signed with the Cowboys prior to the 2004 season. What influenced your decision to move to North Queensland?
I was at the Bulldogs from 1997 until the end of 2003 and I was enjoying my time there. We had just had a child, our first son Colby. The Bulldogs went on to have the salary cap scandal in 2003 so were looking to reduce their cap. I thought 'If I'm going to move clubs, I wouldn't mind moving back home and playing for the Cowboys'. My manager put the feelers out to a few clubs and I was lucky enough to get a response to Peter Parr, Graham Murray, and Dennis Keeffe and was given the opportunity to head back up north. Things just worked out perfectly.
You spent three years with the Cowboys, captaining them to the 2005 Grand Final. What do you remember most about that season?
In all honesty, the 2004 season was probably the most memorable because it was the first time the Cowboys had ever made the finals. We had a little bit of expectation in 2005 because we had made the finals and gone pretty deep the previous year. The thing with the finals is the further your progress, the higher the highs and the lower the lows when you lose. I will always take playing that grand final over not playing in it, but losing it was heartbreaking. You have been together for almost 12 months as a team.
You made your Origin debut in Game 2, 2002. What did it mean to be able to represent your state?
Individually, that was the highest honour I've ever achieved. I remember Wednesday nights when Origin was on, pulling the mattress out and laying in front of the TV and watching the whole game. My favourite team when I was younger was Parramatta, but then when Origin came around, Sterling and Kenny didn't matter to me. It was 'The King'. It was all Wally Lewis. That's all you ever wanted to do as a kid, represent your state. Gene Miles gave me the call and let me know I was in the team. I think I was still surprised. It took a while to sink in.
You became a firefighter when you finished your career. What made you want to get involved in that field and where are you based?
I'm currently based in Nambour on the Sunshine Coast. It was the end of 2001 or 2002, I knew I was more towards the back end of my career so I wanted to put some feelers out and have a look and see what was out there. I don't know how I stumbled across it, but I saw the firies had a lot of similarities to professional sport and just sport in general. It's a team environment, they do have their downtimes, but when an emergency happens, everyone needs to be switched on and you have your role to play. You don't want to let your team down. You have a goal you want to achieve. There is no monotony. Each day is different. I've been doing it for 12 years now and I still thoroughly enjoy going to work.