Justin Cridland, Sam Smith, Bill Cullen, Josh Hughes, Jack Wilson and Brendan Dow chat with coaches, trainers and current Cowboys’ player Tariq Sims at the Cowboys Top Gun Academy.
Justin Cridland, Sam Smith, Bill Cullen, Josh Hughes, Jack Wilson and Brendan Dow chat with coaches, trainers and current Cowboys’ player Tariq Sims at the Cowboys Top Gun Academy. Contributed

Juniors mix it up with elite

RUGBY league players from the Gladstone region rubbed shoulders with football's elite over the weekend at the Cowboys Top Gun Academy.

Sam Smith, 15, of Valley Junior Rugby League, was one of the boys who attended the training camp.

His dad Ian tagged along for the ride.

He said players from Rockhampton and the Central Highlands also attended.

There were six in total from the Gladstone region. Representing the under-14s was Justin Cridland and Josh Hughes; the under-15s Sam Smith and Brendan Dow; and the under-16s Bill Cullen and Jack Wilson.

"Dean Payne, the Cowboys development manager was just so impressed with the skills and dedication of these young fellas," Ian said.

"Current Cowboys forward Tariq Sims was also there.

"He was on crutches but still mobile - a very nice man, just such a personable chap."

He added that the boys were extremely excited to have a football hero in their midst.

And in turn, Tariq was suitably impressed by the young talent.

"He was blown away by the size of the boys. He said he was going to be in trouble when they bulked up," Ian said.

At the camp, which was held at Emmaus College in Rockhampton, Cowboys staff and players put young league enthusiasts to the test, then sent them away with a training program.

They'll return in January for a second stint at the academy. Ian reckons the boys will excel in the next instalment too.

"Their attitude is incredible. They're not there to muck around."