Lowe all good after spinal surgery
Ethan Lowe is relishing an injury free pre-season as he prepares to hand the goal kicking duties back to Johnathan Thurston after his stunning 2017 finals display with the boot.
Lowe has also revealed just how valuable Thurston's advice was in the lead-up to the North Queensland Cowboys' knockout semi against the Parramatta Eels, after which he landed his next 11 kicks straight.
Watching Lowe kick goals in the finals series it is hard to recall a player who looked so much in the zone as he prepared to land them from everywhere.
He booted a stunning 14 from 15 in four games in a performance that would have done Thurston proud.
"I probably wasn't really comfortable in the role at the start of the year when I got thrown in that position," Lowe told NRL.com.
"A lot of kicking comes down to doing everything right mentally…and then you are going to put the ball in the right spot.
"[Thurston] has been one of the best at it for a long time so I was able to pick his brain.
"In the Parra game in the finals I missed almost every kick in the warmup. Johnno came to me before we ran out and had a few words and said 'focus on what you need to do and your processes' and it all came good.
"I grew into the role by the end of the year but I am not going to stand in his way if he wants it back."
Lowe is enjoying a full pre-season at peak fitness after recovering the previous off-season from spinal surgery for a pinched nerve in his neck which he suffered against Melbourne in the first week of the 2016 finals series.
"This [pre-season] is happier and there a few more people around," he grinned.
"Last year was pretty lonely, just doing everything by myself until February.
"I've seen the surgeon lately and he said 'no more visits' so it's all good.
"[The injury] probably played on my mind a bit more than I thought it was going to. I thought it was going to be pretty easy to come back from but maybe a few little things pop in your head here and there.
"When you start coming back into doing that full contact stuff you get a few doubts but I was able to work my way through them and finish off the year really well, which I was really happy about."
The 26-year-old forward's resilience and versatility is valued at the Cowboys and he is a player who had nothing delivered to him on a silver platter.
Lowe took a punt when he came to North Queensland on a train and trial deal after missing out on an NRL contract at the Roosters.
"I was playing under 20s and I thought the next step would have been straight into an NRL squad, but I wasn't offered any contracts at the end of my under 20s career," he said.
"I was lucky enough to get a train and trial deal up here with the [Northern] Pride. I trained until February with the Cowboys and was told their squad was full for the year but to go back to the Pride and keep working hard and good things will happen.
"Three or four weeks into that Q Cup season I got a deal for the next year. I had to do it the hard way and the long way, but it has helped in the end."
Lowe is off contract at the end of 2018 and would like to stay on at the Cowboys.
The passion of local fans continues to impress him no end.
Lowe wrote on PlayersVoice.com.au about how he was blown away by a photo shown to him by his local tattooist of a man who had a giant tattoo on his back of the Cowboys logo, the score in the 2015 grand final and the team list from 1 to 17.
"That was pretty crazy," he grinned.
Lowe said he had "seven or eight" tattoos himself.
"The one that means the most is my first one," he told NRL.com.
"I was a late bloomer and was 21 or 22 when I got my first one. I got one for my great grandmother, who passed away, on my ribs.
"Growing up in Goondiwindi I used to have a sleepover at her house every Friday night. She used to live near the footy field. I'd ride my bike from school to her house, sleep over Friday night and ride to footy Saturday morning.
"It is one of those memories that I always cherish of being with her."