Big star returns for anniversary
IF YOU don't believe dreams come true just ask Paul Bowman - he went from a Proserpine junior league player to Cowboys captain and Queensland State of Origin star.
Now he will return to where it all began to attend the Proserpine Whitsunday Junior Rugby League 50th anniversary reunion dinner.
Bowman moved to Proserpine around 1980 as a toddler and joined the local club the first chance he got, playing for the under-9s.
"It was the first age group they had," he said.
The former Maroons centre started as a seven-year-old and played for the club until under-11s, when he was moved to a boarding school.
"I used to play when I came home on school holidays," he said.
Bowman's memories from those early days weren't from playing football itself.
"It was good fun travelling away to games. There were plenty of road trips," he said. Although he never returned to Proserpine full-time, he still played the occasional seniors game for the Brahmans, even while at university in Brisbane.
It was actually playing for the Brahmans in 1994 that got him his big break.
"With holidays at uni, I went back and played for the under-19s in Proserpine. They said if they made the finals they'd fly me back from Brissie each week to play, so they did," Bowman said.
The team went on to make the grand final of the Mackay competition that year.
"Grant Bell, the coach of the Cowboys at the time, just so happened to be at that final and the rest is history. He'd seen me play and it pretty much went from there really. It was pretty lucky," Bowman said.
Bowman would go on to play seven games in the Cowboys' inaugural year, eventually playing more than 200 games.
He said it was important to keep sport strong in regional areas.
"A lot of small country towns are struggling. Proserpine has been pretty lucky in terms of rugby league - it's always been strong. It's important it remains strong and to keep kids playing football," he said.
"They've got good pathways in terms of the Blackhawks and Mackay Cutters. They can play junior football and work their way through the ranks. Back when I was playing junior footy there was no Cowboys. Kids now have a really good pathway they can follow to achieve their dreams."
While Bowman said it was tough to make a career in rugby league, he agreed luck also played its part.
So when did he decide to pursue rugby league? "It wasn't really until I got a gig at the Cowboys, I had nothing out of school, it's just lucky how I ended up with the Cowboys," he said.
His message for young kids wanting to play in the NRL is simple.
"Keep working hard and make sure you've got something to fall back on. Education is very important," he said.
"It was lucky how I ended up, you just never know who's watching."