Milestone match for Cowboys' Tamou
Cowboys prop James Tamou will celebrate his 150th game in blue and grey against the Dragons on Saturday, becoming just the 10th player to ever post 150 games for the regional club.
The feat has taken the club over 20 years, and the lack of rich lineage since their admission in 1995 comes with little surprise. In its fledgling and frightfully unsuccessful years, North Queensland was viewed as one of the league's least attractive prospects for a player.
The result was that the club had to pay over market value for recruits, while financial turbulence meant that they also could not splash the volume of cash that others were.
But the 2005 season was a landmark year for the club with Johnathan Thurston's arrival, and they reached the grand final that very year.
The pendulum had started to swing; they lucked out on young recruit Matt Scott and partnered him with the talented Tamou in 2009.
Jason Taumalolo was signed the next year, and with that nucleus the Cowboys were on the path to glory.
After three lean years from 2008-2010, the Cowboys are currently on par with Melbourne for most consecutive finals appearances (five).
The present success has been a long time coming, but it is something Tamou says has made the club enticing for talented players around the country.
"I think the club is really coming along, and obviously taking out the premiership really helped it," he said.
"I think a lot more players will stick around here and not long it will be 20 players and 30 players [reaching 150 games], and some players cracking the 200 mark.
"Players these days in the NRL are starting younger and are more talented than they have ever been, so it will be interesting to see where the club heads."
Now with the bargaining chips of Tamou, Thurston, Scott and Taumalolo – all of whom have taken less money to stay at the club – the NRL's only regional team has become a modern-day powerhouse.
Thurston's reported push for another contract extension this week and the way talks are unfolding with fullback Lachlan Coote just highlight the way in which they look after their talent and continue to build.
Former Broncos star and Cairns junior Justin Hodges was also complimentary of his 'local' club, telling NRL.com: "The star-studded roster they've got now led by 'JT', the best player to play our game in our generation, having players like that and Matty Scott just draws their retention and draws kids.
"If you look back to when 'JT' first went there they were a side that just plodded along and I know what he does for that team and what it does for that community up there.
"He gives them hope and having a guy like that, who is the face of rugby league, it just draws so many people to that club."