Junior soccer players are walking in the footsteps of some of Australia’s elite athletes as they train at the North Queensland Cowboys’ world-class training facility in Townsville.
The Hutchinson Builders Centre (Cowboys community, training and high performance centre) is not only home to the North Queensland Toyota Cowboys, but is now the training ground for Football Queensland’s junior talent support and skills acquisition program in Townsville.
The Cowboys Community, Training and High Performance Centre combines community areas, multi-sport high-performance training spaces, sports medicine and sports science laboratories.
The $40 million training and high performance centre was built in early 2021, with support of a $20 million loan from the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF).
NAIF provides finance for developments that support growth in northern Australia, with long term public benefit one of its key focus areas to provide social infrastructure that can be used by a wide range of people in the local community.
World class facilities
Cowboys CEO Jeff Reibel says it is really positive to see the community being able to benefit from the world-class facilities.
“It reinforces our vision for a multi-purpose facility that attracts a range of sporting codes and that the community can use,” Mr Reibel says.
Michael Edwards, a FA/AFC Pro-Licence coach with impressive credentials that includes a short period as an assistant coach with Australia’s women’s national team, joined Football Queensland in 2021 to work with the junior programs in Townsville and Cairns. Michael believes access to the centre is helping to make dreams a reality for some of the junior players.
“The Cowboys training and high performance centre matches the facilities that high performance, professional teams use,” Michael says.
“Being able to access the James Cook University Exercise Science Unit, the indoor pitch and the recovery pools means they get to experience what a player in the professional league does, and it helps them to realise that a career in professional sport is a real possibility for them.”
And Michael is just as passionate about how this benefits the community as he is about getting junior players onto the national football arena.
“Being able to provide some of these young players with access to a professional level facility keeps families in the region and actually keeps the local community supported,” he said.
“The families stay in Townsville, the kids continue to play in the local leagues and the families are still contributing to the local economy and community.
“So often, when kids reach 14 or 15 and they decide to pursue their dreams in professional sport, then they and their families and all they contribute, leave the region.
“Sport is all about the community, and having this facility is helping to contribute to this community.”
Talent on tap
In April 2022, Townsville hosted the Under 16 National Talent Identification Camp from the Cowboys’ training and high performance centre. Identified players from all over Australia who have been selected for the junior talent program will play soccer at the stadium. The game will be broadcast live around the country for talent directors to watch.
For the first time ever, on 8 April 2022 Australia’s women’s national soccer team the Matildas played in Townsville. The game against New Zealand attracted more than 16 000 spectators.
Football Queensland General Manager Northern Region Declan Carnes said the Cowboys training centre, combined with their high-calibre coaching guru Michael Edwards, have been catalysts for attracting important events to the region.
“Without the Cowboys’ centre and Michael, we wouldn’t be attracting some of the high-profile football events and teams coming to Townsville,” Declan said.
Chair of the NAIF Board, Tracey Hayes said the North Queensland Cowboys’ Community, Training and High Performance Centre is a long-term asset for Townsville that will have lasting benefits for the region.
“The Cowboys’ centre not only supports the development and growth of sport in north Queensland, but we are already seeing that it is growing Townsville’s community assets, it is helping to strengthen the community and attract events and people to the region,” Tracey said.
Published 2 August 2022