After a horror 2020 season in which they missed the playoffs, the Cowboys will be looking to improve with Dak Prescott under centre.
Told she was too small to make it, Ash Barty has most definitely had the last laugh.
Not that the world No.1 ever played tennis to silence the doubters.
For Barty, also a former professional cricketer and a Brisbane club golf champion, sport has always been “a way of life”.
“It’s more than just sport. It’s a passion, it’s a lifestyle and it’s a way of life,” Barty told AAP.
“And it doesn’t matter what sport it is, sport brings people together and for me that was probably the biggest thing.”
Fittingly, the biggest name in Australian women’s sport is also an ambassador for Tennis Australia’s Girls in Sport Program, having also been the pin-up for #PlayForYou, an important campaign aimed at keeping teenagers involved in sport.
A Sport Australia AusPlay 2018 survey reported that 36 per cent of girls stopped playing sport by the age of 18.
Debilitating peer pressure to look good and obsession over body image were identified as key factors in why teenagers dropped out.
“I hope I can help inspire women and girls to believe in themselves and have the courage to do things their way,” said Barty, the 2020 Young Australian of the Year.
“I was told I was too short to play tennis but I didn’t give up on my dreams. Whatever you choose to do in life, stay true to yourself and have a smile on your face.”
A Wimbledon junior champion at 15, Barty quit tennis at 18, the homesickness from the isolating grind of the professional circuit and the crushing pressure of being touted the sport’s next big thing almost bringing the prodigy’s career undone.
But she never quit sport altogether, instead playing for the Brisbane Heat in the Women’s Big Bash League before returning to her first love.
“When I heard about the (#PlayForYou) campaign, it really hit home with all the struggles and the battles and all the things I went through during my years as a teenager, and then even more so as an athlete playing,” Barty said.
“But for me it’s about not letting anyone else tell you what you can and can’t do. It’s about going out there and chasing your dreams.
“That’s the hardest thing; becoming vulnerable and really putting yourself out there because there’s nothing more heartbreaking and crushing than when do put yourself out there and don’t get the result you’re after.
“It’s absolutely soul-crushing.
“But the satisfaction that you get and the feeling that you get when you release and play for yourself, that was a massive part of my development.”