The recent news that North Queensland Cowboys star fullback Matt Bowen is set to retire from the clubs playing roster at the end of 2013 has saddened me. On the weekend in what would be his second last regular season game of his career he put in a Man of the Match performance and at just 31 years of age some may wonder why he can’t go around for another season. Constant knee problems which have seen him lose cartilage and require surgery to both knees is a major factor.
Bowen has played 13 seasons with the Cowboys, in that time playing 268 games, which is the clubs record and has earned him one of only four life members spots at the club. During his career he also gained representative honours for Queensland on 10 occasions, played a test for Australia and represented the Indigenous All Stars.
The electric fullback has long time been a crowd favourite and I believe he is the reason many people attend North Queensland home games. The Cowboys could be losing in the most boring match but as soon as the ball is kicked down field and Bowen catches it, the crowd was always sure to ignite. He is so much of a crowd favourite in the North that people have begun a petition to get a Matty Bowen statue outside of the 1300 Smiles Stadium in Townsville, similar to that of the Wally Lewis figure at Lang Park.
A player often referred to as ‘small’, proved this was no handicap regularly making opposition players look foolish with his speed, skill and agility. Not only has Bowen been a great player, the softly spoken Hope Vale product has been a great advocate for the game of Rugby League, great ambassador for North Queensland and role model for Indigenous youth. He has done great things for the club and an offer for him to stay inside the ranks of the North Queensland club working in the community programs has been offered. I would love to see him in this position, he could definitely inspire the upcoming talent across North Queensland.
The weekend coming will see Bowen play for the last time in front of his home crowd when the Cowboys take on the Wests Tigers at 1300 Smiles Stadium. It is still a vital game to win in order for the Cowboys to contest the finals series, but more importantly to send the champion fullback out a winner for the last time in North Queensland. I expect a large crowd to pack the Townsville stadium to witness Bowen’s last match and anticipate an appropriate tribute from the club for their greatest ever player.