Club super fan and Cowboys.com.au contributor Kate Cornish speaks to 20-year-old forward Riley Price about his growth since moving to North Queensland, training alongside the full-time squad and the elite sporting genes in his family.
He may have made his first rugby league tackle at the tender age of five for the Mount Albert Lions in Auckland, New Zealand, but Riley Price says he feels right at home in Townsville and he is ready for his shot to make his debut with the Cowboys, should he be so lucky to get the chance.
“I remember watching dad play footy every weekend and as soon as I was old enough to play, I did. I started at five-years-old and was straight into the action. As soon as I picked up a footy, I just loved it.”
Blessed with elite sporting genes and a strong competitive nature, Price says his dad, Queensland State of Origin stalwart, Steve Price, has already played an important part in his fledgling career, always giving advice on improving elements of his game and encouraging his son to be the best person he can be on and off the field.
“Growing up I have been lucky to have him by my side obviously with footy, but also with things that are not about footy as well. Whether I’ve played a good game or a bad game, he is always there with tips about what I could improve. I am very lucky to have him in my life.”
Another mentor in Price’s life is a name familiar to Cowboys fans, Brent Tate. For any young athlete, having a strong support network is vital to their success and Price knows he is lucky to have someone as experienced as his uncle in his corner and in Townsville with him.
“My uncle has given me advice as well about being professional on and off the field. Footy isn’t just a job where you turn up to play and then go home. It is also about what you do off the field and at home.”
Price caught the eye of the Cowboys in 2019 when he was a just 17-years-old and straight out of high school. He credits the club with improvements in his game including his speed and his strength over that time.
“I have come a long way since 2019. I was only 75kgs when I arrived and playing in the middle, but every day I take things in from coaches and not just at the Cowboys, but from the Blackhawks, too. My game has definitely stepped up since being in North Queensland.”
For Price, the 2021 season had its fair share of ups-and-downs and he found the transition from the Under 20’s to Queensland Cup a great challenge. Price played in eight games this year, and while he did suffer a broken clavicle early in the season, he says he’s feeling great and is eager for more opportunities in 2022.
Getting to train beside some of the best in the business is enough to keep his motivation high and to show coaching staff exactly what he has to offer, and with pre-season training now in full swing, every player is out to be noticed.
“When you are a young kid that is what you dream about doing, training alongside players like Jason Taumalolo. They are the players that I grew up watching so it is quite surreal. Everyone is going out on the training paddock everyday trying to be their best, and sometimes you might not get it right, but it is great to be around this group with people who have been there and done it before. They are there to help you get through and to help you be the best player and person you can be.”
The Hutchinson Builders Centre is a head-turner and the quality of resources now available to players is certainly not lost on Price. He says having the chance to train in and experience this world class facility is an experience that takes training and performance to the next level.
“It is quite amazing when you think about what we have up here. It would have to be one of the best centres in the country. It is the little things that the high-performance team are able to do now that they were not able to do before that makes a difference.”
Getting his shot at first grade is a personal goal for Price in 2022, and he hopes that by playing consistent football, week in and week out he will realise his dream of running out onto the field making his first-grade debut.
“I have been dreaming of that moment since I was little, so when Todd (Payten) and the coaching staff think the time is right, I will ready.”
With big footy shoes to fill within the family, the sibling rivalry is also strong in the Price household. Price’s older sister, Jamie-Lee, is a sporting star in her own right. She is a current Australian Diamond, and one of the best defensive mid-courters in the world, with 18 Test Caps to her name.
“It is awesome watching her do her thing in her sport. It makes me really proud to see her represent her country. She is one of the most dominant players in her position so it's great to see her doing what she loves. We definitely get competitive when we get home and we do some gym sessions together.”
With Cowboys Head of Football, Micheal Luck, believing that Price is one of the best forwards in his age group, the sky is the limit for this young player looking to leave his own mark in the rugby league world.
“When the people who run this club have that sort of belief and trust in you, that is amazing. They are the ones who have given me the opportunity to do what I love to do, so I am quite grateful for the position that I am in.”