It’S not often I try and convert the masses to the wonders of rugby league. For one, someone has to want to be converted and those who don’t follow rugby league tend do so for a reason.
But this was different.
Raoul and Jess had come across from Perth for Friday night’s Prince concert and hadn’t stopped smiling since.
The plan for the Saturday was simple: Brisbane’s Paniyiri Greek festival and a few beers in West End, before heading into the city for a colleague’s farewell. And then, an in-depth introduction to the Cowboys.
All day I plugged the Cowboys. I talked up their poor record against every single team in the competition. There were plans to compare them to the similarly-hapless Fremantle Dockers, before Raoul suggested that being West Coast Eagles fans they didn’t particularly want to hear about it.
Most of all I talked up the legend that is Matty Bowen.
Thirty years old. Coming back from some horror injuries. The man who had to step up while the State of Origin players were away. The man who would lead the team and keep us ensconced in the top four.
For me it was simple: the Cowboys had to show they weren’t useless without Jonathan Thurston and they might well gain themselves two new fans.
Thankfully, they came to the party.
We switched the TV across just in time to see Bowen show some Dancing With The Stars footwork to open the Cowboys’ account, after Penrith had crossed early.
Bowen then backed it up with a rocket ball out to Ash Graham to open up a 10-6 lead.
Slack defence meant that lead was short-lived, with Blake Austin taking advantage with a run down the left to put Lachlan Coote over and leave the Panthers 12-10 up at half-time.
By now my guests were slowly getting into the game, something made easier after the break as the Cowboys skipped ahead.
First up, Antonio Winterstein grabbed a Bowen bomb to put the Cowboys back in the lead, before Michael Morgan’s delicate dab found Gavin Cooper for a 22-12 lead.
Yet it wouldn’t be a proper Cowboys introduction without a few flutters.
Penrith ran in three tries to take a four-point lead with 10 minutes to go. Then the Cowboys lost prop Tariq Sims to a suspected broken leg, just days after being named as back-up for the NSW Origin team.
Thankfully for this story, the Cowboys’ second Sims saw space after a kick was knocked backwards near the Penrith line. He went over, Bowen kicked the extras and all of a sudden his 59th-minute penalty goal was the difference.
It was a good win without the Origin stars, keeping the Cowboys in the top four.
They have a good test against the Wests Tigers next Sunday to try and extend this run to four straight.
Not only that, but I think two Sandgropers now know who to cheer for, whenever the NRLs is on in the west.