Thorby finds lifeline after cop-out
North Queensland Cowboys forward Ricky Thorby will be handed a career lifeline by the Intrust Super Cup's newest franchise, the Townsville Blackhawks, after his plans to retire and join the police force were halted by previous driving indiscretions.
Thorby will line up in the front row for the Cairns-based Northern Pride in the Intrust Super Cup Grand Final at Suncorp Stadium on Sunday in what could be his final game for the club.
If the Pride defeat the Easts Tigers they will advance to the NRL State Championship on Grand Final day next weekend but a loss would bring to an end to Thorby's association with the Cowboys after three years and 24 NRL games for the club.
With two young children to care for Thorby told NRL.com earlier in the year that the prospect of coming off contract at the end of 2014 was a scary one. As such he made enquiries to secure his family's future by making an application to join the police force, an application that failed to pass its first hurdle.
"I tried to go for the coppers but I've been denied until 2016 because I lost my licence for demerits a couple of years ago," Thorby said.
"If you forget to re-register your car, as you do sometimes, you have to wait five years. So if you're thinking of joining the coppers make sure you're on top of all that."
Although he had received offers from other Intrust Super Cup clubs, the admission of the Townsville Blackhawks into the competition in 2015 allows Thorby and his family the opportunity to remain where they are.
The Blackhawks are expected to announce their inaugural coach within the next week at which point formal contracts will be issued to their primary playing targets.
Former Cowboys under-20s stars Michael Parker-Walshe and Nathan Norford are two locals the club is eager to have on their books but football operations manager Adrian Thomson confirmed they also need experienced players such as Thorby to be competitive in their first season.
"We have sent out some letters of offer to a few players and while we want a heavy contingent of local boys, we're not so naive to think we don't need some players with NRL or State Cup experience," Thomson said.
"Ricky is certainly someone that is high on our list [of potential recruits] and once we appoint the coach we'd certainly hope that he is someone we can bring on board.
"Michael has played for the Brothers club here in Townsville and I have spoken to him about possibly joining the Blackhawks. He'd be the first to admit he's dropped off a bit in his training but the challenge for Michael is to get back to that level and once again have the chance to push for an NRL spot."
In addition to keeping his family settled in Townsville, a contract with the Blackhawks would keep Thorby within easy reach of the Cowboys should a need arise throughout the season and the 28-year-old certainly hasn't given up on playing in the NRL again.
"For me personally, I've always been a fringe [NRL] player so I'd like to get started on life after footy but at the same time you know that if you're playing good enough they'll give you a run," Thorby said of his future. "Ben Spina's an example, he's been playing good footy all year and he got his debut against the Dragons.
"If I'm playing good enough footy next year there's no reason why I can't get a run with the Cows again.
"I had a couple of offers to go to other Queensland Cup teams but I like Townsville. I'm right into my pig hunting and outdoors stuff and Townsville is a real good place for that.
"I had my fingers crossed that the Blackhawks would come in so that would give me a reason to stay so that worked out real good... Hopefully I'm someone that they would like to have at their club.
"I'd like to be there so hopefully they offer me something."
Thorby and fellow Cowboy Ethan Lowe will join the Pride's Grand Final squad on Friday in Cairns before flying down to Brisbane on Saturday but says simply qualifying for the Grand Final is a feat in itself.
"The first hurdle as a team that we wanted to get over was beating Easts to actually get into the Grand Final," said Thorby, who played 21 games across four seasons for the Dragons from 2007-2010.
"Last year that was the game that we lost and the following game we were out to Mackay so we wanted to go one step further and get into the Grand Final, which we have, and now we're just taking as it comes.
"I just feel normal. It's not just another game, there's a lot more to it, but that's just the way I feel, it's just another game of footy for me."