Cowboys' King of wishful thinking
It's a 2,144-kilomtre journey from Wollongong to Townsville but somewhere along the way new Cowboys hooker Cameron King hopes to have outrun the bad luck that has dogged him throughout his young career.
Despite having a year to run on his contract at the Dragons, King has been able to join North Queensland on a two-year deal and looks set for a showdown with Ray Thompson to be rookie NRL coach Paul Green's first choice No.9.
When he made his debut for the Dragons back in 2010 many were predicting a bright future for King in the top grade but a succession of injuries have restricted the 22-year-old to just 17 games since, his run of bad luck including pectoral, thumb, knee and shoulder injuries.
"It's just bad luck I guess, young and coming into first grade," King said of his cursed injury run that started at the World Club Challenge in February 2011. "I see coming up here as something of a fresh start and hopefully I've left all of that in the past and I can get on with my footy."
The hooking position proved problematic for coach Neil Henry throughout 2013 following the departures of both James Segeyaro (Panthers) and Aaron Payne (retirement) prior to the start of the season and was an area in which the Cowboys needed to find stability.
Thompson was something of a revelation in the second half of the season in the No.9 jersey but King is still confident he can push his claims to run out in the starting side against the Raiders in Round 1.
"I'm not sure. It's sort of an up-for-grabs position," King said of his battle with Thompson. "Ray finished the year off well last year but 'Greeny' has come in and we've got some different structures with the coach so it's all what the coach wants. We'll see how the trials go in February."
King has wasted little time in acclimatising and adjusting to the Townsville way of life, heading out on fishing trips to Magnetic Island and soaking up the tropical vistas to be enjoyed along The Strand. He's yet to go pig hunting with Scott Bolton and Matt Scott but the former Australian Schoolboys captain is eagerly awaiting the opportunity to spend some quality time with one of the best players in the world in Johnathan Thurston.
"Obviously he's one of the best players in the world and just to play with a guy like that and learn off someone like that is going to be good. Just to train alongside him every day and watch how he conducts himself will be good," King told NRL.com.
"I met him before he went away with the World Cup so it will be good to start training with those boys when they come back in January.
"We'll have a good month of training and then obviously play the trials which aren't win or lose. They're good to get your combinations in a real game situation so we can get that right before Round 1."
But for now, King is heading back to Sydney for Christmas with his sister and her husband, Fox Sports commentator and Penrith legend, Greg Alexander.
"He's been good since I came into first grade, anything I've needed he's been there," King said of having a legend of the game as his brother-in-law.
"I was too young to really remember him; I didn't really realise how good he was until a few years ago when I watched some highlights and saw all the trophies he had in his house.
"I didn't realise how big a deal he was back then but it's weird because we don't really talk too much footy. When we're catching up we're just catching up for family time."