Cowboys legends put smiles on faces
IT WAS an overwhelming scene at the Whitsunday Sportspark on Tuesday as a couple of North Queensland Cowboys stars rode into town.
There was even a special guest visit by Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk but it was Cowboy legends Matt Bowen and Brent Tate along with current centre Justin O'Neill that drew the crowd.
More than a 1000 people turned out to get autographs, pictures and kick a ball around with some rugby league legends, here to boost morale in the communities decimated by Severe Tropical Cyclone Debbie.
The players' tour of the Whitsundays on Tuesday included visits to Bowen, Proserpine and Airlie Beach and there were smiles on faces wherever they went.
Tate said being a parent made him appreciate the value of a child's smile.
"It means a lot to these people. They've been going pretty hard the last few days. People are doing it tough. When you've got kids of your own and you see kids get a buzz, it makes you feel good as well. That's the best thing about it," the former centre said.
"People in the north are renowned for sticking together and that's been what we've got here today. I think around here you've got farmers that have lost a lot. For us it's really nice to be able to come out and give everyone a break. We're not helping physically but hopefully socially we're making an impact."
Bowen said it was all about the kids.
"It's just good to come down here and see people like this and put a smile on their faces.
"To come here and do this and take those things off their mind, it's good. We've done our job.
"They've been through a tough time," he said.
"For a lot of these people Cowboys are their team. To come here and show our support and show we're thinking about them and to see the kids is the most important thing.
"I'm sure the kids will look back and remember us coming down here and doing this."
Cowboys centre O'Neill is currently sidelined due to injury but said the whole experience had been an eye opener.
"I think it's amazing to see how positive people can still be after what they've been through and how much they've lost," he said.
"We know how much support the community gives us and how far they travel for games. Us being out here is a way to give back to the community."
Premier Palaszczuk was joined by Queensland Police Commissioner Ian Stewart, Brigadier Christopher Field, Whitsunday mayor Andrew Willcox and Queensland Minster for Sport Mick de Brenni.
Whitsunday Sportspark president Justin Butler said it was a sensational scene on Tuesday.
"The Cowboys were what the kids were here for. I'd estimate we've had between 1000-1500 people on the grounds today," he said.
"We got every ball we could find out on the field.
"Having the Premier and minister for sport here goes to show how much support we're getting in this community."