One-on-one with a Texas Terrier

Neil Henry previews the Queensland derby


Players don’t always personify where they come from. The Knights’ Danny Wicks is from the Grafton Ghosts, and the Newcastle prop is far from see-through. While the Dragons’ Dean Young is a product of the Dapto Canaries – enough said there.

But for Travis Burns, his junior club says it all.

Burns is a Texas Terrier, that’s him to a tee.

A heart as big as the Lone Star State with a fight twice the size of any other, the Cowboys’ five-eighth is one of the NRL’s great competitors.

Watch North Queensland play and you’ll notice any time a team-mate drops a pass or makes an error, Burns is the first in to pat him on the head.

Likewise, when they cross for a try, he’s the first to offer his congratulations, passion etched on his face. More than once this season, Burns has been so eager to party after a four-pointer, he’s stifled Matt Bowen’s attempts at a post-try celebration.

This ‘Dallas’ Cowboy is difficult to get down, but last year his self-belief took a beating.

“It did. It was probably the toughest time for me personally,” Burns reveals.

“I was playing with no confidence right through last year. It’s funny losing games and then you turn up on Monday for a video session, when you know what you’re in for.

“I came up here with big expectations and we never performed. We lost our first three games and I never won a game until late in the year.

“I missed a lot of games through suspension, injury and because of form, so it was a year I’d like to forget. It  knocks the confidence  out of you, but I feel this year I’m playing with a lot more confidence and hopefully you’re going to see it.”

What made it even harder for Burns last year was watching his former club Manly embark on a run to premiership glory, while he and his new team plummeted to the bottom of the ladder.

But with new coach Neil Henry, Burns has started over and can focus on doing what he does best. After all, when the 25-year-old first announced he was leaving the Sea Eagles for Townsville, it seemed like the perfect match.

His tenacity was seen as the ideal offset for the brilliance of Bowen and Johnathan Thurston, and despite last year’s disappointments, that hasn’t changed. If all three can stay on the park along with hooker Aaron Payne, the Cowboys have a scrumbase the envy of the rest of the NRL.

“It’s just to take a bit of pressure off ‘JT’. He’s always been a player who likes doing everything but I’m there to take some kicks and play some footy down our right side,” Burns says.

“We’re sharing the role between me, Aaron Payne and Matty Bowen and we can demand the ball at different times which will help JT out. It looks like we’re going to have a stint now at 6 and 7 and I think we can form a real combination there, it’s just going to take a bit of time.

“Neil instructs us to play what’s in front of us and it’s a good feeling to know if you try something and it doesn’t come off you’re not going to get dragged across the coals for it.”

Hooker Payne says with confidence ‘Texas’ has become part of Townsville.

“‘Burnsy’ had a bit of trouble adjusting at first and getting used to the way we played. He was the first to admit he was down on form,” Payne says.

“But it’s a testament to his character how he’s just hung in there and kept fighting and it’s great to see he’s starting to play well now he knows his role in the team.”