Main content

Marooned State: Jobs for the (Cow)boys

Aaron Payne (left) and Dallas Johnson are just two former players now working in the Cowboys' front office. Credit: NRL Photos Copyright: NRL Photos
As you momentarily switch between car air-conditioning and office air-conditioning and get caught up in 32 steps of unrelenting Townsville heat, your mind starts to wonder as to who might be behind the doors of Cowboys HQ.

Is 'JT' in the gym? Are the Sims boys, Ashton and Tariq, having lunch together? Will Noel Solomon be behind the desk in reception?

Because up in these parts, old Cowboys never die, they just get jobs in the front office.

Having played 35 games for the club in 1999-2000, new coach Paul Green is the most high profile of the old boys walking the halls but spend some time within the confines of the North Queensland base and there are a host of familiar faces to be found.

Paul Bowman and Ashley Graham are in the high performance unit plotting the physical well-being of the NRL and Holden Cup squads, Micheal Luck is dressed to impress in his role as recruitment and development manager, Aaron Payne is working closely with junior academy squads as game development officer while Dallas Johnson tells NRL.com that he's the man who does everything, spreading his time between business development, community ambassador and working in the football department.

Business development manager Clint Amos had four seasons at the Cowboys, strength and conditioning coach Mark Henry played 41 games for the club between 2006-2008 and even Ryan Mahoney, a former member of the Cowboys under-20s, is employed as game development manager.

For the ex-Cowboys themselves, maintaining that connection has not only assisted them in making the transition once they can no longer pull on the boots, it has given them an outlet they believe in wholeheartedly.

It's why long-time football manager Peter Parr sees such value in retaining past players who have something to offer what is still a relatively young organisation, starting back with Glen Murphy, Peter Jones and Martin Locke more than a decade ago.

"We certainly see value in them but first they have to be qualified to do what we need them to do," explains Parr.

"Paul Green, Paul Bowman and Ashley Graham are all highly qualified so that's the No.1 criteria. Then with their profile and their understanding of the club and the respect they have from the current crop, that's all beneficial.

"In terms of club culture, the guys we have here have been part of finals campaigns for this club. 'Bear' (Bowman), Dallas, Ash and 'Payney' have been part of really successful teams so they are able to pass on that work ethic and create the atmosphere required that shows the young players what it takes to be an NRL player."

Ashley Graham's 12-season NRL career effectively came to a close following Round 18 last year when a season-ending ankle injury confirmed that his body was no longer able to withstand the punishment dished out on a weekly basis in the NRL.

The end of Graham's playing career coincided with his completion of a degree in Sport and Exercise Science and a seamless transition into his new role as the NYC and Academy strength and conditioning coach.

"I was always interested in the area, which is why I studied it in the first place, and I guess being in the industry opened doors," Graham said of the next phase of his working life.

"It was an area that the club identified as an area that they needed to work on. There probably wasn't enough focus tailored towards the development of the younger players so a role was created and it worked out well, retiring at the time that I did.

"The Cowboys is a really proud club and there are a lot of guys here who wore the jersey and are now on the other side preparing the players to take the field. In saying that, the guys that are here are here for a reason. They're not just given a job; they've actually got something to offer the club. "It's definitely a proud club and I think having ex players in the organisation definitely sends a strong message."

Parr concedes that transitioning players into their post-football lives wasn't something that the game did particularly well as recently as six or seven years ago and would dearly love the club's favourite son to rejoin the Cowboys when he returns from England.

"We're still very keen for Matthew to work with us and the NRL," Parr said of a future role for Matt Bowen at the club.

"The NRL were keen for him to have an involvement in their One Community programs and Matthew has a great desire to help Indigenous kids finishing their education.

"We told him we'd leave it open for the time being but that will depend on how long he decides to play on."

So with the names Bowman, Payne, Graham, Luck, Johnson, Amos and Henry all working together, that Old Boys touch footy team must go pretty well on a Tuesday night?

"You'd think so but not really," says Graham. "There are a few old injuries that pop up I think."

"Premiers!" shouts Bowman from the back.

They may have swapped locker-rooms for filing cabinets but it's good to see the competitive spirit still lives close to the surface.
Send to a friend:
Your Name:
Your Email:
Friend's Name:
Friend's Email:
Close
Submit
loading image needs to go here
NRL State of Mind. What's your state of mind. #NRLStateOfMind. nrl.com/stateofmind