Since I began following the game in the 1960s, this is the seventh article in a series in which I will pay tribute to the pioneers of each of the eleven surviving clubs that entered the league. I will also tell you a little bit about who they were and where they came from. Today, the Cowboys from Queensland’s far north.
For a long time, the region provided established clubs with a steady supply of top-tier players, such as Kangaroo and Queensland stars Gene Miles, Gorden Tallis, and Greg Dowling.
The region’s hopes of making it big were initially dashed in 1988 when Brisbane joined the competition. In 1995, the NZ Warriors, the ill-fated Perth Reds, and the South Queensland Crushers finally joined the competition.
This is the team that played for the Cowboys against the Bulldogs on March 11, 1995, in Townsville in front of more than 23,000 fans. They lost the game by 32 points to 16.
The total number of first-grade games the player played for North Queensland is shown in brackets.
1. Damian Gibson (31), a Rockhampton native, made his professional debut at the age of 19 in the Cowboys’ inaugural match, scoring the club’s first try. In 1997, he moved to England, where he had a successful career and even played in 18 Wales tests.
2. David Bouveng, 21, played for the Gold Coast Seagulls for a few years before moving to North Queensland in 1995. That year, he scored nine tries, which made him the club’s leading try scorer. In 1997, he moved to England and stayed for one more season.
3. Adrian Vowles (41 years old): Vowles made his professional debut in 1993 for the Gold Coast Seagulls, and he played well enough to end up on the QLD bench for Origin 2 in 1994. He played for the Cowboys for two seasons and has the “distinction” of being the team’s first player to be marched off the field in their inaugural game for a high tackle. He led the team as captain in 1996, but coach Tim Sheens fired him at the end of the year and sent him to England in 1997.
However, despite spending three seasons with the team, Dunemann never really established himself as a first-grade player.
7. Laurie Spina (C) (13 years old) Spina spent eight years playing in the top division for three clubs: North Sydney, Eastern Suburbs, and Cronulla. At the conclusion of the 1990 season, Spina returned to North Queensland to work on the family farm and lead the Ingham Brothers club to three premierships in four years. After that, he was signed by the Cowboys, and he was in charge of the team when club captain and half back Jason Martin got hurt. After the 1995 season, he announced his retirement.
8. Martin Bella, 14, was the club’s biggest signing. When he joined the Cowboys at the age of 31, Bella had played 21 games and 4 tests for QLD. He had a mixed year and was kicked out of the club at the end of 1995 due to problems with his behavior.
9. Dean Schifilliti (11 years old): Schifilliti joined Illawarra from the Herbert River club in 1989. He played for the Steelers for five years before joining the Cowboys in 1994 after playing for Souths for one season. He made his debut for the Cowboys in their inaugural game, but he hurt his knee in the first half and missed the remainder of the season. The following year, he played primarily as a back rower in first grade again before signing with the Adelaide Rams in 1997.
In 1996, he switched teams and joined the Gold Coast Chargers.
11. Wayne Sing (35), who had a great 1995 with the Cowboys, won club best player awards after playing in 20 first-grade games. He returned in 1996 with a significantly lower level of success and concluded his career in France.
12. One of Illawarra’s best players in the early 1990s, Ian Russell (12) was a tough and skilled backrower who spent nine years with the club before moving north to the Cowboys. He never really got back to his best at his new club, and in 1996, he was fired for disciplinary reasons. He finished his career in England.
13. Paul Galea (25), another Gold Coast Seagulls fringe first grader who joined the Cowboys, had the best season of his career, appearing in 19 first grade games. However, he had some trouble in the subsequent two years and left the club at the end of 1997.
14. Shane Christensen (10), a hooker from Ingham, made his first grade debut with the Knights in 1990. He then played for the Herbert River club for four years before joining the Cowboys for one season in 1995.