Chances are North Queensland superstars Jason Taumalolo and Valentine Holmes haven’t been laying turf or wielding a sledgehammer ahead of Friday’s historic clash with Brisbane.
But while the lead-in to the maiden NRL match at Townsville’s new Queensland Country Bank Stadium has surely been smoother than that of the Cowboys’ debut 25 years ago, the DIY attitude and community spirit of the club’s 1995 pioneers helped pave the way for the city’s outstanding new venue.
Foundation head coach Grant Bell says it was all hands on deck setting up the fledgling outfit’s training facilities and getting Stockland Stadium ready for their inaugural premiership match against Canterbury.
“We had players with sledgehammers knocking down the old block masonry walls… (and) pouring new concrete floors,” Bell said.
“Paul Galea laid the blockwork. Wayne Sing and I were involved in putting the drainage in and screeding the floors for the gym. (The coaches) worked out of a portable donger that leaked when it rained.
“In the week (of the first game) players were unloading turf and getting it onto the hills. Things were done on a very tight budget. It was a real bonding period.
"There’s never before been a club built like the Cowboys and there never will be again, where you’ve got such involvement from the community and the players to get everything ready.”
The Cowboys had just over $1 million to spend on their entire playing roster in 1995.
Bell reveals many players – including future Origin stars Paul Bowman, John Buttigieg and John Doyle – signed on for $1000 and some training gear.
Winger Justin Loomans’ contract consisted of having the bills paid for the $1500 he owed on an old Kingswood and getting his front teeth fixed.
Bell recently addressed the current Cowboys squad ahead of Queensland Country Bank Stadium’s unveiling and the anniversary of the club’s first season.
“I said to the players that I’m going to miss the old stadium, and that’s not for the sake of looking back to the past," Bell said.
"I’ll miss it becomes it symbolises a connection and a root and an origin. I’m proud because it says that we got things right enough from the outset that we not only survived but we thrived.”
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