North Queensland gun Jake Bourke has been undergoing one of the toughest pre-season campaigns of his career and he has been absolutely loving it.
A strong performer for Townsville Blackhawks in the Hastings Deering Colts competition this past season, Bourke has been taking part in a training block with the North Queensland Cowboys since early November.
The young five-eighth said while it had been tough, he was taking every opportunity to learn from the players around him.
“It’s been an eye-opener,” Bourke said. “(Pre-season) has been tough, but I am really enjoying it and getting to learn off some of the players that you looked up to and look up to still has been awesome.
“(I have) just been trying to soak everything in from the older players, just for myself as a half, learning off the likes of Chad Townsend, Scott Drinkwater and Tommy Dearden is here as well, so just watching them and learning from them, just the way that they talk and the way they look at the game and read the game.
“It’s really an eye-opener and I have learnt lots from those three so far; Chaddy is a real game manager, so trying to take a lot out of that, just the way he talks and organises all the boys; I have never seen anything like that before.
“Then Scotty Drinkwater, he’s just eyes-up footy, he works around the ruck and tries to get an overlap and just take his opportunities, Tommy Dearden as well, he’s sort of like Chad, a game manager, but can also take his opportunities as well so, just soaking everything up from them, so that has been awesome.”
Heavy lifter - Jake Bourke
A North Queensland product through-and-through – “born in Townsville, grew up in Townsville” – Bourke played all his junior football with Centrals Tigers and has fond memories of sitting on the hill at the old Dairy Farmers Stadium, dreaming of one day being a Cowboy.
Part of a rugby league family, his younger brother Sean is also a talented player who was selected to play in this year’s Queensland Under 17 Country team, and trains with the Cowboys as part of their Young Guns program.
“I haven’t trained with him yet, if I go back to the Young Guns after my pre-season, I will probably get to train with him; I see him around every day but haven’t got to train with him yet,” Bourke said.
“(If we did get to train together) definitely, it would be very competitive.”
Bourke, who has put his electrical apprenticeship on hold during NRL pre-season, said one of his goals for the upcoming season was to play in the Hostplus Cup competition and apply everything he learnt from the past season in the Colts where the Blackhawks fell agonisingly short in an epic decider against Wynnum Manly Seagulls.
“We started a little bit slow and I don’t think we started the season with a full strength team, we had lots of injuries and disruptions, but we found a way to overcome all of that adversity and started playing some really good footy halfway through the season and just kept building into the back-end of the season,” Bourke said.
“I think we all built heaps of partnerships with each other and just found out how we all like to play footy and we started winning games and got through to the grand final.
“(We) had some really good performances in the semi final and then the grand final was a little bit disappointing, we definitely didn’t play the way we would have liked and fell just short.
“For me personally, I learnt a lot from that grand final; I also think back on it and think about what I could have done better in that final.
“I think it will only make me a better player in the future, so I take a lot of lessons out of that grand final and the whole season as well; it was a good season overall, disappointing to fall short, but I was really proud of the boys and how they played.
“I didn’t get a game of Cup this past year … but that’s alright, one of my goals for next season is to play some consistent Cup footy and I think I can do that, especially coming off the back of pretty tough pre-season so far.”
Main image: Jake Bourke at pre-season training with the North Queensland Cowboys. Photo: North Queensland Cowboys Media