Why Scott Bolton is the model Cowboy
For the past decade Scott Bolton has epitomised what it means to play for the North Queensland Cowboys, and that's not necessarily a good thing.
Born in Innisfail, Bolton is as North Queensland as they come.
He loves his footy and the laidback lifestyle that the region offers.
A member of the North Queensland Young Guns that won the then Queensland Cup in 2005, Bolton would give his all on the footy field on the weekend but always found time for his other pursuits, fishing and hunting.
Like his fishing buddy Andrew Symonds, Bolton was chalking up an admirable career without making the sacrifices needed to reach his absolute potential which in many ways sums up the first 20 years of the Cowboys.
Their geographical detachment from the rest of the competition gave them a certain sense of anonymity and the locals embraced them for simply 'having a go' against the heavy hitters from Brisbane and Sydney.
Over the past three years coach Paul Green has pushed them beyond the 'Aussie battler' tag to an NRL powerhouse and Bolton's development into a key premiership component has mirrored that evolution.
"I've always known what he has been capable of but he's sometimes been guilty of just being happy to coast through and just do his job for the team," says co-captain Matt Scott, who is Bolton's roommate and fellow Young Gun graduate.
"He was a quiet, pretty unassuming fella who probably loved to spend time out fishing on his own than training for footy.
"He'll admit that he had a problem making rugby league his main focus.
"Most of the time it's pretty hard to get him off the Reef or away from chasing pigs but he's really started to concentrate on his role within the team the last couple of years and his footy's improved along with that."
When he first arrived at the Cowboys as an 18-year-old back in 2005 Bolton would regularly drive the three-and-a-half hours from Townsville to Innisfail to try and keep the homesickness in check for another week.
In the 10 seasons of first grade since, the 29-year-old has chalked up 177 games to sit sixth on the Cowboys' all-time list, and with a second grand final now just one win away is arguably in the best form of his life.
"The coaches over the years have always fought against him and tried to get him to change who he is and what he does but 'Greeny' straight away realised that was a part of him," Scott told NRL.com.
"Where some of us go and play golf or spend time with our kids 'Bolts' likes to go fishing. That's his release and his way to get away from footy so Greeny really embraced that part of it and that showed he had the faith and trust in him to be able to do the job as well."
Green may have been questioning his support for Bolton's lifestyle when the rugged forward cut his finger whilst fishing and missed nine weeks last year, but the front-rower says it has been a major contributor to his good form.
"It's good knowing that you're not stepping on eggshells every time you're going fishing or anything like that," said Bolton.
"He trusts that I look after myself well during the week and prepare and that I recover well.
"In doing that Greeny's been a great help and I feel like I've repaid that faith from him by doing the right things in recovering well and preparing well for games."
As for the club now reaching its potential as a whole, Bolton says that Green has elevated them beyond perhaps what they previously thought they were capable of.
"One of the biggest things I've noticed since he's come here is the intensity he drives at training and what he puts into our training sessions and preparing for games," Bolton said.
"That's stepped up a lot and probably one of the best things that's happened to us since he's been here.
"There were a fair few years here with the sides that we did have that we definitely under-achieved in what we could have done as a playing group.
"The playing group has matured and that always helps and along with our preparation for games they're probably the reasons we're now reaching our potential at the moment."
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