We caught up with former North Queensland Toyota Cowboys lock Dallas Johnson to talk about his playing career and what he's up to now.
Johnson, 38, spent time with the Melbourne Storm and Catalans Dragons before joining the Cowboys in 2011.
The Herberton Magpies junior made 250 first grade appearances between the NRL and English Super League, 12 appearances for Queensland, one for Australia and won two Premierships with the Storm.
Q&A: Dallas Johnson (Cowboy #219)
1) You grew up in the Atherton Tablelands and played your junior footy for the Herberton Magpies. How old were you when you started playing?
I started playing when I was around six. I lived probably about 400 metres away from the footy field so I spent half my life down at the park running around.
2) You made your NRL debut for the Melbourne Storm as a 20-year-old against the Cronulla Sharks in 2003. How did you find out you’d be making your debut and what do you remember about that match?
It was Craig Bellamy’s first year. I signed with Melbourne in 1999 and then came through the feeder system with Brisbane North. Every pre-season I’d come down to Melbourne for a couple of weeks to train with the first-grade squad. When Craig came down, there were a few spots still up for grabs in the top squad. The two blokes that they ended up keeping down in Melbourne were Billy Slater and myself. I was never a fantastic trainer but I worked hard, kept my head down, didn’t say too much and ended up getting a call up to start at lock for the first game against Cronulla. He announced the team and then the club, as most do, flew my family down to Sydney. It was a special moment standing there being able to look at your parents behind the fence before you run out. I think the first 20 minutes we were down 22-0 or something. When we went into the sheds Craig gave us a fair roast and ripped our heads off. We ended up coming back and winning it in a close one.
3) Your Origin debut in 2006 coincided with the start of the Maroons dynasty. How did you find out you’d been called into the squad and what did it mean to represent your state?
It was a lifelong dream to play for Queensland. When I got the call that I was going to make my debut I was at a local watering hole with the Melbourne teammates and the old man. It was really special to be able to share that moment with the people that got me there. My first Origin game at Suncorp Stadium was a really special moment that stands out to me. Being able to give my parents and family a hug prior to running out was something that stands out. They were two of my favourite moments of my career.
4) After 157 games and two Premierships with Melbourne, you moved over to the English Super League with the Catalans Dragons. What did you enjoy most about your time over in France?
Just the experience. My wife and I really embraced the French culture. My first daughter was born over there so we will always have ties there. It was fantastic to be able to experience that culture. Unfortunately, the football didn’t work out as well as I would have liked, but I really cherished the life and experiences we had over there.
5) After a season with Catalans, you signed with the Cowboys ahead of the 2011 season. Why did you decide to sign with the club?
Your career is only short and I wanted to get the best out of it. A big driver was I would have loved to have helped win the Cowboys their maiden premiership. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen in my time playing, but I hope that I somewhat helped in that process of winning the first one a few years later. It was closer to home and it was great to get back to the region.
6) What have you been up to since retiring at the end of the 2013 season and what are you up to now?
Unfortunately, my modelling career didn’t kick off as I would have liked it. Prior to finish my playing career I started a business to help support the transition, so I’m self-employed. We provide cash equipment, predominately ATM machines for various sectors, pubs, clubs, FI's, retails etc. That’s the day job now. I am still involved with the NRL with the judicial system. I've also done some specialist coaching with the Rebels and Essendon FC in the past to stay involved with footy.