Sam Smith, 17, has moved to Townsville as part of the Cowboys under 20's rugby league squad.
Sam Smith, 17, has moved to Townsville as part of the Cowboys under 20's rugby league squad. Luka Kauzlaric

Gladstone teen's dream in reach after Cowboys signing

SAM Smith has had a lot on his plate the past 18 months; completing his final years of school while factoring in a hectic rugby league schedule.

The workload has paid off for the Gladstone teenager with what would ordinarily have been a relaxing summer turning into a new adventure with its own tough challenges.

On the radar as a future star courtesy of his Capras representation, an Australian Institute of Sport scholarship that had him travelling regularly to Canberra and a stint in the Queensland under-16 team, Smith has landed himself a gig in Townsville with the North Queensland Cowboys under-20 team.

"I got into the Top Gun Academy and got offered a scholarship for AIS," Smith said.

"I played for the under-16s, it was the opener for the Melbourne State of Origin game."

Having impressed with those efforts, Smith was then targeted by the Cowboys.

Determined to make the most of his opportunity, the 17-year-old moved in with his host family in Townsville on Sunday and training kicked in straight away, foiling any plans of a lazy time over Christmas.

Smith will, however, have some time to settle into his new life before entering the workforce in the new year.

"The rules of under-20s is you need a job or go to university or you can't take the field," he said.

Having signed a four-year deal with the Cowboys, Smith is keen to earn a place in the starting side along with fellow Gladstone player Bill Cullen.

"There are 30 in our squad, I am pretty confident and the Cowboys are pretty confident in me," he said.

"I have a lot of people to thank for getting me there; Valleys, mum and dad, all my coaches and teammates, as well as Toolooa and the teachers for their support."

Although he will be on a steep learning curve over the coming months before the under-20 competition officially kicks off, Smith has his sights firmly fixed on a long-term goal.

"I want to play NRL for the Cowboys but I would play for anyone if I got the chance," he said.