Fans can be heroes too

If you follow rugby league, you could be forgiven to thinking it was 1992 all over again.

Back then the NSWRL was accepting proposals to further expand a growing competition, just four years after the entry of Newcastle, Brisbane and Gold Coast teams.

Initially two teams were to be accepted and Auckland was the early confirmation.

In late November the NSWRL decided there was nothing between the remaining three candidates ? the North Queensland Cowboys, South Queensland Crushers and Western Reds ? and announced that all four teams would play in a 20-team competition commencing in 1995.

It?s been ten hectic years since that 1995 season when no less than 229 games of first grade football were played. Since then, we?ve seen a remarkable 5 clubs permamently put to pasture, 6 clubs undergo mergers, one which was booted out and then reinstated with another franchise being bought out and revamped.

The fickle nature of the way clubs have come and gone, merged and changed hands over this period is what makes the ten year anniversary of the North Queensland Cowboys such a special occasion.

The fans celebrated in style with the landmark fixture being round 16 against the Bulldogs. Unfortunately it was a similar result to that of round 1, 1995 ? 32-16 then and 32-18 this time around ? but once again the fans showed that it?s not about results.

Those who watched on TV witnessed perhaps more noise made by twenty thousand people in a league game than we?ve seen in years. And it was one of the local juniors that gave a euphoric moment back to the crowd ? Matt Bowen?s electric try from a Braith Anasta bomb will never be forgotten by those who saw it.

It hasn?t all been good times for the Cowboys though. In 2001, there was the controversial sacking of coach Tim Sheens and the subsequent financial rescue by News Limited.

But it?s surely been the support of the fans that have kept the club viable throughout this period. Despite a forgettable win-loss-draw record of 63-6-154 since their inception, the Cowboys have retained an amazing home crowd average of just over 16,300 in 110 home appearances.

No glorious history of premiership wins, no real tradition of legendary players etched in the annals of the game, no world famous actors or celebrities publicly supporting them.

No real recognition south of the border. No more than a sole match on free-to-air television in ten years. Never even made the finals series, despite the fact that nowadays more than half the sides in the competition qualify.

Heck, they didn?t even get the nickname they wanted. Crocodiles would have been much better in this day and age than being cowboys.

So why do the fans keep showing up, week after week, month after month, year after year?

They?re still over the bloody moon that they?ve got their own team.

Cowboys fans were absolutely delighted back in ?92 when they found out they were going to have a team in the big time. Looks like they were so pleased that it still hasn?t worn off to this day.

You read a lot these days about how it?s the Queensland spirit that makes State of Origin great. It?s true ? countless decades of being hammered by their own champions hurt deeply.

By the time 1980 came around the desire for revenge was enormous, and we all know the rest.

You might say the same about North Queensland. But in this case it?s the fans who are hungry to see a team from their own region succeed. The local league fans know all too well how good their talent is ? names like Gene Miles, Greg Dowling, Gavin Allen, Gorden Tallis and Danny Moore are just a select few.

But all those blokes represented Sydney or Brisbane clubs. True league fans will usually know where a player really comes from, but that?s not enough. The North Queenslanders want the whole world to see just how good their boys can play.

And while everyone would agree that the Cowboys? first ten years in the competition has been disappointing results-wise, nobody in their right mind can ignore the statement that has been made by the fans. In 110 home games the crowd figure has fallen below the 10,000 mark just eight times.

And it doesn?t matter how often you hear supporters claim that ?results don?t matter?. It?s those kinds of numbers that make the most powerful statement of all.

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