You don’t get many jumping on the North Queensland Cowboys bandwagon. A provincial town with a large transient population, Townsville’s somewhere you pass through on a holiday, possibly stopping in to watch your favourite team beat the hapless locals.
As I’ve already written my only link to the town and team is that a military father happened to be posted there when I was born.
Supporting them wasn’t easy either, with their poor record meaning Channel Nine never touched them, my poor finances meant I couldn’t touch a Foxtel subscription and living in Canberra and Cooma meant the local pubs wouldn’t flick the television channel so one bloke could watch.
Season 2004 changed everything. As the Cowboys closed in on a maiden finals appearance news came through that Channel Nine would show the Cowboys take on the Wests Tigers.
Finally those of us too poor to pay could watch our boys play; and play they did, registering a still-too-rare win down in Sydney.
It was great to put faces to names will Josh Hannay, Ty Williams and Paul Rauhihi; the commentators gushed the Cowboys confirmed their place in the top eight.
And everyone started talking about Matty Bowen.
He’s been my favourite player since. YouTube his name and you’ll get this
All this from a bloke officially topping out at 1.75m and coming from a township Indigenous activist Noel Pearson described in 2007 as a “hellhole”.
On one of my rare trips back to Townsville I had a chat with a few people who said Bowen was not just a champion footballer but a champion bloke to boot.
Bowen’s early career peaked early in the 2005 grand final when he scored the opening try. Although they lost that game, the expectation was that the Bowen/Johnathan Thurston double act would lead us to great things.
Instead, Bowen’s knees went, and with it the Cowboys’ 2008, 2009 and 2010 seasons.
2011 was better, with Bowen breaking the Cowboys’ most games record, before that most stunning of renaissances in 2012.
13 tries, 28 try-assists and second in the Dally M medal count sum up Bowen’s influence on the season; his partnership with Thurston had every team on tenterhooks whenever either came near the ball. That’s without mentioning the 77th minute try at Lang Park to snatch a victory against the Broncos.
Seriously, only a premiership win can beat your favourite player making the winning play against your most hated foes.
Alas, the knees went again this year. He’s come back and come back well, but your head can see why the Cowboys haven’t offered a new contract to a 31-year-old player with bad knees.
The heart on the other hand… If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go back and watch those clips again.
Matty Bowen, we’re all going to miss you.